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FASIffQK 



SPINACH 




$2.75 

''Eat your broccoli, dear." 

"/ say it's spinach and I say to hell with it." 

from a cartoon in the New Yorker 



Fashion Is Spinach 

By ELIZABETH HAWES 



ELIZABETH HAWES is one of the best-known and 
most successful designers of smart women's 
clothes in America, and the undisputed leader of 
the small group of American designers who have 
challenged the style supremacy of Paris. 

Miss Hawes' story is an adventure into every 
phase of the women's clothing industry, the sec- 
ond largest business in the United States. Her 
early struggles for recognition and her final lead- 
ership in helping to shift the center of the fashion 
industry from Paris to New York make a story 
that will appeal not only to the initiate, but to 
thousands besides and to their husbands. 







SOME OPINIONS 

"Consumers attention! Elizabeth Hawes tells us that 'the 
deformed thief Fashion' steals the real value out of what 
we buy. She suggests a remedy. She makes a plea for 
functional and durable merchandise. Consumers want 
that too. 

"Although Fashion Is Spinach deals exclusively with 
the clothing industry it has a wider application." 

ALINE DAVIS HAYS 
President, League of Women Shoppers 

"There are few enough books written by people who 
know what they are talking about. And few enough of 
those few which either make sense or, making sense, 
have the wit to hold the reader's interest through even 
a short summer evening. But Hawes' book on fashion is 
one. It is fun to read, exciting to think about. . . . She is 
a fiery, human little David taking a shot at that fantastic 
Goliath which is the fashion world and plunking it 
right in its dreamy eye." 

RALPH INCERSOLL, publisher, TIME 

"All the dirt on female fashions which nobody ought to 
know and everybody is actually panting for. No man will 
sleep well of nights for a week after reading the inside 

continued on back flap 




From the collection of the 

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AJibrary 



San Francisco, California 
2006 



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FASHION IS SPINACH 



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RANDOM HOUSE NEW YORK 



COPYRIGHT, 1938, BY ELIZABETH HAWES 
SECOND PRINTING 



DECORATIONS BY 

ALEXEY BRODOVITCH 

PRINTED IN U.S.A. BY H. WOLFF 




"Eat your broccoli, dear." 

7 say it's spinach and I say to hell 

with it." 



Illustration by courtety of Carl Rote & The New Yorker 



I acknowledge with gratitude the help 
Of Maria Leiper who asked for another book 
Of Harriette McLain who enabled Random House to print this book 
Of Kenneth White who believes in split infinitives 
All of whom made it possible for me to dedicate Fashion Is Spinach 



TO 

MADELEINE VIONNET 

the great creator of style in France 

AND TO 

THE FUTURE DESIGNERS OF 
MASS-PRODUCED CLOTHES 

the world over 



ontents 



PART I 
THE FRENCH LEGEND 

"All beautiful clothes are made in the houses of the French 
couturieres and all women want them" 

Chapter 1 The Deformed Thief, Fashion 3 

2 "Is God French?" , 13 

3 I Was Nurtured in It 25 

4 Copying, a Fancy Name 35 

5 The Photographic Eye 49 

6 NEWS . . . News . . . news 65 

7 The Bastard Art of Styling 79 

ix 



Chapter 8 Cutting, Pinning and Draping 95 

9 It Creaks 105 

PART II 
BUY AMERICAN 

"All American women can have beautiful clothes." 

Chapter 10 The Great American Boast 119 

11 Couturiere, Pocket Edition 133 

12 Designers Are Not Miracle Makers 145 

13 "She's Barred from France" 155 

14 Robots, Maybe 177 

15 Up for Promotion 189 

16 Bigger Than U. S. Steel 203 

17 Fords, Not Lincolns 215 

18 I Buy an Ivory Tower 225 

19 Notatal Silk 245 

20 Blood Money and No Money 263 

21 A Lucky Strike 277 

22 Men Might Like Skirts 291 

23 Our Competitive System 313 

24 I Say It's Spinach 331 



PART I 

THE FRENCH LEGEND 

"All beautiful clothes are made 

in the houses of the French Couturieres 

and all women want them" 



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THERE are only two kinds of women in the world of 
clothing. One buys her clothes made-to-order, the other 
buys her clothes ready-made. 

The made-to-order lady frequents Molyneux, Lanvin, 
Paquin, Chanel, in Paris. In New York she is deposited by 

3 



her chauffeur "on the Plaza," at the door of Bergdorf Good- 
man, or she threads through the traffic of Forty-ninth Street to 
Hattie Carnegie, less advantageously placed geographically 
but equally important where fashion is concerned. She may 
do her shopping out of the traffic, in a gray house on Sixty- 
seventh Street, Hawes, Inc., or just hit the edge of the mob at 
the Savoy-Plaza where Valentina holds sway. 

In any case, the made-to-order lady can shop and dress 
to her entire satisfaction. Thousands of skilled craftsmen 
and women are ready to sew up her clothes. Tens of design- 
ers in London and Paris and New York and Los Angeles will 
work out her special sketches. Hundreds of salespeople are 
on tap at all hours of the day to watch over her fittings, ad- 
vise her what not to buy, send shoppers to find that special 
color and material which really should be worn in her dining 
room. 

She pays, yes. But it's worth it a thousand times. Her 
clothes are her own and correspond to her life as she under- 
stands it. She may spend hours fitting them, but in the end 
they are right. 

Meanwhile, the ready-made lady shops. She too may 
want a special color to wear in her dining room. She may 
find that color after two weeks of hunting, or she may never 
find it, since very possibly "we are not using it this season." 
She may find a really warm and sturdy winter coat which 
will last her for the next six years and only cost $35 or 
she may discover that the coat she bought last year is not in 
fashion this year, that the material was, after all, not all 
wool. 

Millions and millions of women go shopping year after 
year. They are tall and short, fat and thin, gay and de- 
pressed. They may clothe their bodies for the simple pur- 
pose of keeping warm or not going naked. They may choose 

4 



their wardrobes with care for wintering in Palm Beach, or 
going to the races in Ascot. Their first necessary choice is, 
can they pay enough to get exactly what they want or are they 
at the mercy of mass production. Can they buy style or 
must they buy fashion? 

Lanvin and Chanel, Hawes and Valentina, are funda- 
mentally occupied with selling style. The manufacturer and 
the department store are primarily occupied with selling 
fashion. 

I don't know when the word fashion came into being, but 
it was an evil day. For thousands of years people got along 
with something called style and maybe, in another thousand, 
we'll go back to it. 

Style is that thing which, being looked back upon after 
a century, gives you the fundamental feeling of a certain 
period in history. Style in Greece in 2000 B.C. was delicate 
outdoor architecture and the clothes which went with it. 
Style in the Renaissance was an elaborately carved stone 
cathedral and rich velvet, gold trimmed robes. Style doesn't 
change every month or every year. It only changes as often 
as there is a real change in the point of view and lives of the 
people for whom it is produced. 

Style in 1937 may give you a functional house and 
comfortable clothes to wear in it. Style doesn't give a whoop 
whether your comfortable clothes are red or yellow or blue, 
or whether your bag matches your shoes. Style gives you 
shorts for tennis because they are practical. Style takes away 
the wasp-waisted corset when women get free and active. 

If you are in a position to deal with a shop which makes 
your clothes specially for you, style is what you can have, 
the right clothes for your life in your epoch, uncompromis- 
ingly, at once. 

On top of style there has arisen a strange and wonderful 



creature called fashion. He got started at least as far back 
as the seventeenth century when a few smart people recog- 
nized him for what he was and is. "See'st thou not, I say, 
what a deformed thief this fashion is?" Mr. Shakespeare 
demanded in Much Ado About Nothing. But nobody paid 
any attention. 

Now we have the advertising agency and the manufac- 
turer, the department store and the fashion writer all here 
to tell us that the past, present, and future of clothing de- 
pends on fashion, ceaselessly changing. 

Manufacturing clothes is the second largest business in 
the United States. Not one-half of one percent of the popu- 
lation can have its clothing made to order or wants to for 
that matter. 

This means that a large portion of $2,656,242,000 
changes hands annually under the eye of that thief, fashion, 
who becomes more and more deformed with practice. 
Fashion is a parasite on style. Without style, he wouldn't 
exist, but what he does to it is nobody's business. 

Fashion is that horrid little man with an evil eye who 
tells you that your last winter's coat may be in perfect physi- 
cal condition, but you can't wear it. You can't wear it because 
it has a belt and this year "we are not showing belts." 

Fashion gets up those perfectly ghastly ideas, such as ac- 
cessories should match, and proceeds to give you shoes, 
gloves, bag, and hat all in the same hideous shade of kelly 
green which he insists is chic this season whether it turns you 
yellow or not. Fashion is apt to insist one year that you are 
nobody if you wear flat heels, and then turn right around 
and throw thousands of them in your face. 

Fashion persuades millions of women that comfort and 
good lines are not all they should ask in clothes. Fashion 
swings the female population this way and that through the 

6 



magic expression that "they" are wearing such and such this 
season and you must do likewise or be ostracized. 

Fashion in America says that if Lady Abbington is wear- 
ing lace to the races, you should wear it to work in Macy's 
basement because you are afterwards going on to Coney 
Island. If "they" are wearing their hair cut close to their 
heads and waved over one eye, then you must, too. If you 
can't go to the hairdresser every day, that's just too bad. 

One of the most fascinating things about the world of 
fashion is that practically no one knows who inhabits it or 
why it exists. There are a few people who know how it works, 
but they won't tell. So it just goes on, getting in deeper and 
deeper, until something like a war or depression slows it up 
from time to time. But once the war or the depression lets up, 
off again goes fashion on its mad way. 

Some people seem to like it. There are a good many 
people who don't, but just accept it as inevitable, throwing 
away perfectly good old clothes and buying new ones every 
year. Now and then the public gets angry and writes letters 
to the press saying they simply won't wear long skirts, or 
short ones, as the case may be, but "they" pay very little 
attention. "They" just go ahead and change the fashion 
again and say you can't have blue or you must have brown. 

"They" decide everything. "They" know whether it is 
to be pink or green this fall, whether it's to be short skirts, 
whether you can wear mink. For years everyone who thinks 
has gone around at one time or another trying to find out in 
a desultory sort of way who "they" are. 

If they have any sense of humor, they must have a great 
deal of fun. Fancy how they must have laughed when they 
once got the last New York shop girl into afternoon clothes 
in the morning. One of their best stunts was putting all the 

7 



ladies into Eugenie hats one September, and then whipping 
them off when all those old feathers had been sold. 

In the past they were able to decree that all Fifth Avenue 
was to be purple in a given week. If you didn't get a purple 
dress in those days, you were jailed. They got by so well 
with the color changes that a revulsion occurred in the pub- 
lic mind, and for a number of years they haven't really suc- 
ceeded in putting across a solid wave of a single color. 

They take inordinate pleasure in telling you your acces- 
sories must match and then putting out seven different shades 
of brown so you can spend two weeks finding the brown shoe 
that happens to go with your brown coat. They also love to 
take up "influences." Sometimes it's Chinese, other times 
Mexican. The game those seasons is to try and find the in- 
fluence in anything but print. 

Then, they improve things. The sight of a simple towel- 
ing bathrobe infuriates them. They put navy blue stars on it 
at once. Just as you resign yourself to the navy blue stars, 
they throw away that pattern and make all the toweling bath- 
robes with puffed sleeves. 

The same group took away all those lovely white bath- 
rooms and made them lavender, and have got out streamline 
gas stoves. They no sooner taught everyone to go out in low 
shoes and silk stockings in winter than they decided to try 
out high shoes again. 

There have been rumors about that "they" are people 
like Greta Garbo, and Mrs. Harrison Williams, exotic the- 
atrical stars and rich society ladies. But nobody can prove it. 
Greta Garbo is reported to wear whatever her designer 
chooses to put on her and it is exceedingly doubtful that she 
really expected everyone to wear sequin day dresses a la 
Mata Hari. 

Mrs. Harrison Williams always appears to be having a 

8 



very good time in public and to be largely taken up with 
talking to her dinner partner. Possibly she lies awake nights 
worrying whether to turn all the world into a chiffon evening 
dress or thinking up the newest color for next spring. 

Are "they" really the French designers? At a large meet- 
ing of New York business women in fashion, Lucien Lelong 
was answering questions. "Monsieur Lelong," a lady begged, 
"please tell us what colors will be smart next spring?" Mon- 
sieur Lelong politely replied, "I have a hundred shades of 
blue, a hundred shades of red, and so on. When I design a 
new collection, I just put my hand on the samples and take 
anyone that suits my fancy that day." 

Patou, when he was alive and successful around 1932, 
got out a whole collection of long-waisted dresses. Nobody 
else followed suit. Nobody bought them. He had to make an- 
other collection with natural waists. 

There are the dress manufacturers on our Seventh Ave- 
nue in New York. Some say they are "they." Some say those 
manufacturers just brutally decide they will put the waist- 
lines up or down as suits their fancy. How did it happen then, 
in 1930, that the manufacturers on Seventh Avenue made a 
whole set of clothes with short skirts and suddenly found the 
skirts had got long while they weren't looking? 

So, a king gets crowned in England and everything must 
have ermine trimming. But you can't find any ermine trim- 
ming in America that spring. I go to buy some oxfords with 
cuban heels and find that they only come with one-inch 
heels. In 1929 leather-heeled oxfords were too heavy for any 
American woman to wear. That's what Delman's chic shoe 
shop said. By 1934, leather-heeled oxfords were all over the 
streets of New York. 

I want a navy blue dress in the fall. It is only worn in the 
spring, the salesgirl says. I want a coat with no fur trimming 

9 



in the winter of 1930. All winter coats have fur trimming, the 
salesgirl says. 

I want a brown turtle-necked sweater. I start at Macy's 
and slowly wend my way through Altman's and Best's and 
Lord and Taylor's and Saks' and Bonwit's. Finally I buy a 
white one at Fortnum and Mason and send it to be dyed. They 
say it won't dye, but it does. 

I want a plain knit bathing suit with a skirt. They're all 
fancy knits this year and they have no skirts. I want a bras- 
siere and separate pants bathing suit. We don't have them 
any more. That was last year. 

I want that kind of a bathing suit and I'm going right up 
and get one made to order by Valentina. I don't care if it 
does cost me $200. But if I haven't got the $200, must I take a 
printed challis bathing suit this year and like it? Just because 
they're wearing them on the Lido, what's that to me? 

Why don't they ask me, a ready-made lady, what I want? 
Maybe they'd find out, to their horror, that all I want is a 
nice deep-crowned riding hat like the one I had ten years 
ago. Why don't they find out how much money I have to spend 
and what I really want to buy for it? Who got up this idea 
that just because one tenth of one percent of the population 
needs a certain kind of clothes, I want the same thing? Who 
decided that just because I was only paying $10.75 for my 
dress I wanted a bow and a diamond clip added to the neck? 

Fashion, my girl he decided. He doesn't deal directly 
with you. He swipes ideas from style, embroiders them to 
cover up the fact that he left out half the material and only 
paid 75 cents a yard for the rest. He hires press agents and 
advertising men to assure you that the bright cellophane 
wrapper is what counts. Fashion gets $50,000 a year for con- 
vincing you. His wife gets her clothes at Hattie Carnegie's, so 
why should he worry. 

10 



I, Elizabeth Hawes, have sold, stolen, and designed 
clothes in Paris. I have reported on Paris fashions for news- 
papers and magazines and department stores. I've worked 
with American buyers in Europe. 

In America, I have built up my ivory tower on Sixty- 
seventh Street in New York. There I enjoy the privilege of 
making beautiful and expensive clothes to order for those 
who can afford my wares. I ran the show myself from the 
business angle for its first four years. I have designed, sold, 
and publicized my own clothes for nine years. 

At the same time, in New York, I designed one year for a 
cheap wholesale dress house. I've designed bags, gloves, 
sweaters, hats, furs, and fabrics for manufacturers. I've 
worked on promotions of those articles with advertising 
agencies and department stores. 

During the course of all this, I've become convinced that 
ninety-five percent of the business of fashion is a useless 
waste of time and energy as far as the public is concerned. 
It serves only to ball up the ready-made customers and make 
their lives miserable. The only useful purpose that changes 
in fashion can possibly have is to give a little additional 
gaiety to life. But by the time you've taken off fashion's 
bright cellophane wrapper, you usually find not only that 
fashion is no fun at all, but that even the utility of your pur- 
chase has been sacrificed. 

Fashion is so shrouded in mystery, so far away and so 
foreign, so complicated, and so boring when you understand 
its ways, that it has become a complete anachronism in mod- 
ern life. One good laugh, and the deformed thief would van- 
ish into the past. 

All my laughs are based entirely on my own work. I have 
done no research on any of the aspects of fashion except what 

11 



was necessary to a given job. I simply write what I have ex- 
perienced and none of the characters in this book are taken 
from anything but life. 



12 



"of, ff,J 3% 







AMERICA has a habit of priding herself on being a land 
of big time promotion and publicity. Most Americans 
engaged in it have never stopped to consider that the really 
big press agents of the world are the French. They have built 
something up which has lasted not for a week or a month or 
a season, but for nearly a century. 

13 



There have been a good many books written about the 
French, how they think they are God, or "Dieu est-il 
Frangais," but the beauty of the French clothing business is 
that for decades nobody ever questioned its God-like quality. 
The build-up has been so perfect, so subtle and so unceasing 
that a legend is still accepted as reality by nearly the whole 
world. 

One must give the French full credit for keeping their 
campaign on a very high level. They cannot be held respon- 
sible for what America has done to a once perfectly good 
idea. The French legend is a very simple one. All really 
beautiful clothes are designed in the houses of the French 
couturiers and all women want those clothes. 

Properly speaking, a couturier or couturiere, male or 
female of the species, is a person who creates clothes for in- 
dividual women and maintains an establishment where those 
designs are sold directly to women and made to order. All 
important couturiers show at least two collections of clothes 
a year, spring and summer clothes in February, autumn and 
winter clothes in August or September. 

Only the made-to-order lady goes to buy in such houses. 
She chooses the clothes she wants from a collection of 
seventy-five to two hundred dresses, coats, and suits of every 
description and for every occasion. The designs have been 
worked out and made on girls, mannequins, who afterward 
show them to the customers. The woman does not buy a de- 
sign made specially or exclusively for her. What she buys 
may be sold to many other women. 

In some cases, individual designs are worked out for a 
certain customer. This is rare, however, and usually only 
happens in the case of ceremonial clothes, weddings, corona- 
tions, theatrical performances. 

It is quite difficult for Americans who have never shopped 

14 



in Europe to understand that, while each couturier makes 
clothes for every hour of the day and night, he makes only 
what he chooses for each occasion. Every real designer has 
his or her own interpretation of the style of the era. If 
Chanel does not like black satin, nobody can get black satin 
from her. If Chanel does not like full skirts, nobody can find 
one chez Chanel. 

The customer who wants satin and full skirts will go, with 
Chanel's blessing, to another couturier who is using satin and 
making full skirts. Every European made-to-order shopper 
ultimately finds the couturier who suits her type and ideas. 
Sometimes a woman may go one place for her coats and suits, 
another for her evening clothes, but having finally settled on 
the designer or designers whose taste is most suitable, the 
made-to-order customer sticks. 

In general, nothing but death can separate the made-to-. 
order European woman from her chosen couturier. Her faith 
is based on the great tradition to which the Parisian cou- 
turiers belong. 

The names of the French designers as individuals may 
die out within a generation, but there are always new ones to 
replace them. So far the newcomers have adequately filled 
the places of their dying predecessors. In their comings and 
their goings, they continue to work in a single pattern. Their 
business is that of dressmaking, great dressmaking, design- 
ing in fine fabrics and sewing fine seams. The pattern estab- 
lished by the French designers is followed by all couturiers 
the world over. 

All that is necessary to be a French designer is that one 
work in France. This is a very important reason for the suc- 
cess of the great legend. The French believe in their souls 
that all dress designers are French, and work in Paris. They 

15 



make it easy to work in France, if you want to be a French 
designer. 

If you're Norman Hartnell, and want to show clothes in 
Paris but go right back to England and keep on designing 
there afterward, then you can't find a place in Paris to show 
your clothes. You just can't make a lease. 

If you're Elizabeth Hawes and some French fabric manu- 
facturers are being very helpful to you, even practically 
keeping you in business through a depression, you will be 
asked by those manufacturers over and over again, "Why 
do you insist on being an American Designer?" They always 
say, "Why don't you work in France? It's so much easier to 
work there." 

It is much easier to work there on individual clothes. 
Sometimes you wonder why you ever tried to work any place 
else. Everything is arranged for couturiers to work in Paris. 
So, among the French designers one finds Molyneux, who 
is French to the French, British to you. There is Schiaparelli, 
a great French designer, born Italian. There is Main Bocher, 
born in the U.S.A. And there are, of course, designers born 
and bred in France. 

When you design in Paris, you know that everyone un- 
derstands what you are trying to do and wants to help. That 
is, they understand what you're trying to do if you want 
to design beautiful clothes for the made-to-order European 
woman. 

To begin with, time is no object. Wages of sewing girls 
are low and you can put as much work into a dress as you 
like. The price will still be within reason. It may take a girl 
a hundred hours to finish a garment. In 1925, she was paid 
about $7.50 for her work. 

Even more important than the price of her labor, the 
Parisian midinette, the sewing girl of the great tradition, 

16 



knows her business. She has been trained to sew beautifully 
and carefully. She is thousands strong in number. 

Rent is fabulously low in the big city of artistic tradition. 
The mannequins who show the clothes depend more on their 
gentlemen friends than on the dressmakers for their living. 
The fabrics are wonderful and seductive in price as well as 
in design and color. 

The handicraft background provides handweavers as well 
as handsewers. Some of the peasants around Lyons, in central 
France, still bend over their very old and rickety handlooms 
to turn out small lengths of intricate damask. Machines could 
do it, yes. But no machine can work out the first bit of new 
design. 

Moreover, there is no necessity for having it done by 
machine. One day I suggested that some of those very de- 
sirable materials were too hideously expensive. "Couldn't 
you make them by machine?" I asked a French fabric man. 
I knew he could. They are sometimes made by machine in 
America, the design stolen from a hand-made pattern. 

"Oh," said the fabric gentleman, "they would never be 
so beautiful." He painted a pastoral picture of the peasant 
milking his cow between weaving inches of the damask in 
question. 

"Come on," said I, "you know perfectly well it can be 
done by machine." 

"Well," he smiled gently, "it's still cheaper to have them 
made by hand." 

The French standard of living for the working class has 
been notoriously low for generations. The generations which 
have made the great tradition of French fabrics and dress- 
making, the generations which have made possible the build- 
ing of the great tradition, were still quietly carrying on in 
1925 when I went to work in Paris. 

17 



They carried on with the buckles and the buttons, the 
flowers and other odds and ends which go into fine dresses. 
Any time you want a special buckle in France, someone will 
run it up for you. They don't have to make a die and cast a 
thousand of them. 

One at a time, a yard at a time, a dress at a time, this is 
what is needed to carry on the great tradition. It is medieval, 
it is anachronistic, it is why all beautiful clothes are supposed 
to be made in France and all women are supposed to want 
them. 

The whole French clothing industry, from the materials 
down to the last button, is run for the purpose of dressing 
women individually, to order. The designers are not only 
bred to do that, but they are urged to do only that. 

The French have never tried very hard, or with any con- 
viction to make cheap clothes in mass production. They de- 
sign beautiful clothes for rich and beautiful women, and 
what the rest of the French population wears is of no impor- 
tance. It is not only of no importance to the French designer, 
it is of no importance to anyone in the fashion world. 

All those who have ever been in France know that the 
majority of women wear a tailored suit or a black dress and 
that's that. The entire French legend is built up on a few de- 
signers who design for a small group of a few hundred or 
possibly a few thousand women who are "chic." 

There is no word in English for chic. Why should there 
be? Everything chic is by legend French. Perhaps everything 
chic is in reality French. The French invented chic and they 
keep it alive by what has come to be a very complicated ma- 
chinery. It was not complicated when all women who wanted 
and could afford more clothing than enough to cover their 
bodies were the very rich and leisurely European popula- 
tion, plus a few ladies in the hinterland of America, Russia, 

18 



Argentina. It was not complicated before America swung 
into mass production. 

We try very hard to have chic in America, but the ground 
is not fertile. We tried to substitute an English word, 
"smart." R. H. Macy took it right into the heart of our cul- 
ture and decided it was "smart to be thrifty." That fixed that 
word. Nobody who knows anything about chic thinks you can 
have it and be thrifty. Nobody has ever seen a chic woman 
in thrifty $29.50 clothes. 

If you are chic, you have your hair done every day or 
two. Your nails are perfect. Your stockings scarcely last an 
evening. Your shoes are impeccable. Your jewelry is real 
and expensive. Your clothes are made to order and to fit. 
They are your clothes made in your colors and not one of a 
thousand machine-made copies. Your hats are your hats 
with the brims exactly the right width and bend. 

Chic is a combination of style and fashion. To be really 
chic, a woman must have positive style, a positive way of liv- 
ing and acting and looking which is her own. To this she adds 
those endless trips to the hairdresser, facial lady, shoemaker 
and dressmaker. With infallible taste for her own problems, 
she chooses what is in her style and fashionable at the same 
time. If her style is not quite the fashion, the chic woman ef- 
fects a compromise with the edge on the fashionable side. 

Being chic was not only created "on the Continent" but 
it fundamentally can only flourish in that unhurried atmos- 
phere. It takes a background of leisured people with secure 
bankrolls who don't have or want to worry about what's 
going on at the office, to produce chic and keep it alive. It 
takes large houses, in town and in country, with plenty of 
servants who run everything smoothly, without requiring 
too many orders. 

The chic woman must have a lady's maid who worries 

19 



over what her lady looks like even more than my lady does 
herself. It is the maid, Marie, who says, "Madame really 
must buy some new hats. The little black felt in particular, 
of which Madame is so fond, is becoming just a trifle 
stretched on the left edge where Madame pulls it down over 
her eye. And the navy tailleur! Really Madame cannot wear 
it again. There is just the merest shine on the back of the 
skirt. Madame's net evening dress has a small tear in the 
skirt. I have mended it, but Madame will only care to wear 
it at home in the future." 

Oh, to all the people who design and put together Ma- 
dame's clothes, her lady's maid is of vital importance. It is 
Marie who will tell Madame, "The clothes which you bought 
last season at Adrienne's, Madame. I think you will not 
want to go there this season, really. The seams split on the 
sleeves every time Madame wore one of them. The black lace 
was definitely some old stuff which broke on the first wear- 
ing. I feel sure Madame can find what she likes at Dolneau 
where the workmanship is so excellent. I have never, Ma- 
dame, had to repair one seam of a Dolneau frock." 

She has never, perhaps, had to repair one seam of a 
Dolneau frock. Even if she has, Dolneau has repaid her. 
Marie gets a cut on everything that Madame buys in Paris. 
It is the prerogative of the lady's maid to pay the bills. She 
puts on her neat navy coat and small blue felt hat. She pulls 
up her sturdy cotton stockings and slips in to her old black 
purse a bunch of thousand franc notes which Madame gives 
her for the Dolneau clothes. She scuttles silently up to a cer- 
tain desk in Dolneau's big house on the rue Royale. She 
hands over her high pile of franc notes. 

She receives back a little pile of franc notes, her pay-off 
for liking Dolneau clothes. Maybe he pays her 10% and 
Adrienne only gave her 5%. Adrienne's clothes immedi- 

20 



ately burst at the seams, the hems fall out of them, the mate- 
rials go into holes like magic. Madame will surely prefer to 
buy her clothes at Dolneau the next season. 

Madame needn't worry about whether she has enough 
silk stockings, whether her lingerie is about to give out, what 
she is going to wear to lunch today. Marie will purchase the 
stockings, at a very good price from which, even so, she will 
be given her commission. Marie will call in the lingerie 
woman some morning, when Madame has nothing to do be- 
tween twelve and one, so a new set can be ordered. Marie 
will make the important decision between the beige outfit 
with the olive green accessories and the simple black crepe 
with the very small white edgings in which Madame looks so 
very very chic. 

Madame's butler will run everything about the house so 
she never has to give it a thought. Madame's chauffeur will 
know by instinct the addresses where she wants to go to shop, 
for lunch, for the weekend. 

And the husband of Madame will have time to go week- 
ending with her. He will not be too busy to run off to the 
south of France when it gets a bit rainy in Paris. He will 
have time to notice every new bag and belt and shoe she 
wears. He will go shopping with her and have long consulta- 
tions with the saleslady. 

"Madame's little gray tailleur of last spring was just a 
trifle too young for her," Monsieur will say. "I think that 
these very short skirts are not becoming to Madame. We 
must choose something just the merest bit more serious- 
minded this season. Cherie, vraiment, you know perfectly 
well that your legs are just a touch plump. Of course, I adore 
them, but in public I think we should have them covered just 
two inches lower down." 

The hours consumed in getting just the right shoe to 

21 



complete each costume, and fitting that shoe and sending it 
back and fitting it again, seem a very pleasant way of spend- 
ing time in Paris. The only other thing you must do that day 
is get dressed for dinner at nine. Next week you and Mon- 
sieur are going off to the little country place in Normandy 
for a rest anyway. 

Chic, chic, it rests on the craftspeople, the servants, the 
time, and the money which Monsieur has inherited, or found 
somewhere. Maybe he works just a little. Maybe Madame 
came from Pittsburgh with a fortune in coal mines. He will 
love her legs which are a little too fat, and she will love to be 
a countess. 

It doesn't cost too much in Europe, what with the coal 
mines and the wages one pays. The ladies' maid gets $20 a 
month plus her commissions. The butler doesn't get much 
more. There's plenty left for the Rolls Royce and the small 
villa of forty rooms in Cannes. It's a wonderful life. The food 
is superb, the wine better. The sun is warm when it should be 
and the snow is on the Alps if Madame wants to ski. 

The main problem of the chic life is having the right 
clothes to wear in the temperature one happens to prefer at 
the time. In June you must have special clothes for London 
and Ascot. In January you find yourself setting out for the 
Lido, with the proper nakedness to catch the sun. You may 
have to get some shooting togs for October in Scotland, and 
there are the proper evening clothes for playing roulette in 
Biarritz in March. 

And Madame is attractive. No one, however jealous of 
her leisurely life, could dare to deny it. Sometimes she gets 
too fat or too thin. Sometimes she has nerves and develops 
wrinkles. But all of these things can be kept in shape by mas- 
sage, facials, doctors, and what not. A group of chic women, 
beautifully dressed, in perfect taste for the occasion, clean 

22 



and well-groomed, are about as seductive a picture as the 
heart could wish. 

They are perfectly sure of themselves, and their posi- 
tion, their clothes and their friends. They are photographed 
and written about. They are built up. The great French leg- 
end rests lightly on their lovely white or sun-tanned shoul- 
ders. 

The French couturier knows and understands these 
women and no other women. He creates the major part of 
their chic, supplemented as it is by accessories and all that 
goes into being well-groomed. 

All beautiful clothes are designed in the houses of the 
French couturiers and all women want those clothes. You 
can read it in the newspapers. You can read it in the maga- 
zines. Your best friend will tell you so. 

Once chic existed innocently enough, the natural result 
of French dressmaking and the leisurely life. Everyone ac- 
cepted it quietly as the normal thing for those who could have 
it. It is simply the expensively fashionable angle of real 
style. 

What the thief, fashion, did to it is of vital interest to 
the American public. Armed with the tools of mass produc- 
tion, aided by the advertising man and the promotion expert, 
abetted by a wild prosperity, fashion has used the French 
legend for his own scheming ends. 




23 



3 Of QPa* SfcrtureJ 



t n 




|j\)R the first twenty-f our years of my life, I believed in the 
JL French legend. Like most middle- and upper-class young 
people, I was nurtured in it before I ever heard of the cloth- 
ing business in general or designing in particular. 

My maternal grandfather was the vice-president of a 

25 



couple of railroads and, as such, sufficiently affluent to send 
his two children abroad to polish off their educations. His 
son, my uncle Fred, studied architecture in Paris and lived 
in France for several years. 

My mother was a very independent young woman. Al- 
though the head of her New York finishing school didn't 
think it was "proper," she went to Vassar in the gay nineties. 
She subsequently traveled and lived in France, bicycling 
about the shores of the Mediterranean in long flowing skirts. 
She won tennis championships in those same proper clothes. 

Finally she consented to settle down to married life in 
Ridgewood, New Jersey, a town her father and uncle had 
largely owned in the eighties. Her trousseau, most of which 
is still extant in the family attic, was made in Paris. 

My earliest recollections of my own clothes hinge on my 
"Paris dress." I had one a year for some time, brought back 
from the annual pilgrimage of my grandmother to the land 
of art and chic. The dresses were always white, batiste or 
pique, and covered with hand-embroidered eyelets, scallops 
and blue satin sashes. They invariably had short sleeves and 
low necks and I was forced to wear guimpes under them in 
the winter. A guimpe is a sort of shirtwaist with long sleeves 
and a high neck. I loathed guimpes. 

I also was greatly disgusted by being made to wear long- 
legged underwear to dancing school. It made bumps on my 
ankles and deeply offended my sense of chic. 

As a reaction I took to dressing kewpies exclusively in 
hats. A later hangover shows up from time to time in the 
winter. I have a decided tendency to go out on the coldest 
nights clad in one chiffon evening dress and an elbow-length 
velvet cape. 

However, in spite of being too well clothed for any aes- 
thetic pleasure in the winters, my childhood passed off quite 

26 



painlessly. I spent hours on the kewpies' millinery, and more 
hours making dolls' clothes. Mother was an early Montes- 
sori addict of modern education and that included being 
taught to do all sorts of handicrafts. I made dozens of reed 
and raffia baskets and literally miles of beadwork. The bead- 
work took me on occasional trips to the Museum of Natural 
History for designs. 

My grandfather died before I was born and apparently 
the excess money just gradually dwindled away. My grand- 
mother's annual trips to Paris and the resulting clothes 
ceased quietly. My father and mother produced four chil- 
dren, of which I was the second, born on December 16, 1903. 
We had an average middle-class existence in a commuter's 
town about twenty-five miles from New York. 

By the time there were four children, we bulged out of 
the corners of a shingle house which was always going to 
have an addition but never did. We had a rather nice small 
wood, behind the house, where we played. Across the side- 
walkless street there was a big potato patch, on my grand- 
mother's place, which was always going to be a tennis court, 
but never got there. There were several brooks within easy 
playing distance. 

In the backyard, our playhouse was an old wireless cabin 
off one of the Southern Pacific ships. My father was an assist- 
ant manager in that company. We had a big vegetable garden 
and small flower gardens, one for each child. There were the 
usual sandboxes, slides, and trapezes spread around a mossy 
backyard. The grass never would grow because there were 
so many oak trees the soil was shaded and sour. 

Mother, with a taste for the finer materials and work- 
manship in clothes and not much to buy them with, took to 
having our things made in the house. Our shopping expedi- 
tions to town consisted in biannual trips to Alexander's to 

27 



buy shoes, followed by rummaging over remnant counters 
for wonderful material. Then we walked by the windows of 
nice expensive French-importing shops and mother made 
sketches on bits of paper. This was always followed by lunch 
at Henri's or Maillard's and once a year a trip to the Hippo- 
drome, once a trip to the circus, finally occasional theaters. 
My first theater was "The Blue Bird" and I still remember 
quite well the color of one blue stage set. 

The dressmaker would come for a week at a time and, 
with patterns and sketches, run up our clothes. We were my 
older sister, myself, four years younger than she, my little 
sister, four years younger than I, and a brother two years 
younger than she. 

By the time I was nine or ten, I took to sewing my own 
clothes. When I was twelve, I went into dressmaking profes- 
sionally. First I made a few clothes for younger children, 
daughters of mother's friends. The drive was entirely eco- 
nomic. I always wanted to buy something, beads for the bead- 
work, material for another dress, Christmas presents. 

A Mrs. Drinker in Ridgewood made really very charm- 
ing and beautiful clothes for her young daughter and also 
for a little shop in Haverford, Pennsylvania. She regarded 
my sewing activities with interest and some amusement and 
offered to try and sell some of my things to the shop. It was 
called the Greenaway Shop, I remember. 

I designed and made up a couple of gingham dresses and 
one of unbleached muslin with applique embroidery for 
ages three to five which she sent to the shop. They were priced 
about $2.50 each. The material probably cost a dollar. The 
shop re-ordered on the muslin dress, four of them in differ- 
ent sizes. 

There my professional dressmaking activity ceased for 
a while. I graduated from grade school and went on to the 

28 



high school. Social and school life took up all my time ex- 
cept for making my own clothes. I designed and made all of 
them from then on and on and on forever, except for occa- 
sional lapses in France later. 

I used Vogue and Harper's Bazaar freely, copying 
sketches or changing them. This further enforced the French 
legend on my mind. All beautiful clothes were designed in 
France and all women, including myself, wanted them. 

How I escaped going to art school instead of Vassar, I 
don't know exactly. I made a slight move in the art school 
direction but the family tradition for Vassar was strong. My 
older sister was there, following in mother's footsteps. There 
was no fuss about whether or not I was going. I was a good 
student and passed my comprehensives without any trouble. 

My first year at Vassar was marked by nothing much in 
particular. My sister was a senior and had a good many men 
for weekends. I tried to fall in with the same plan. It worked 
with fair success until the end of that year when I lost the 
beau I had kept hanging over from high school. He went to 
Williams and, after having me to one house party, outgrew 
me. I was quite unattractive and as I became progressively 
more serious-minded during the next three years, I had 
fewer and fewer boy-friends. 

Freshman year I was the assistant on costumes for the 
annual outdoor play. I don't think I designed anything. The 
play was "Kismet" and my recollection is that I simply 
worked out the sketches of the girl who was my boss. 

After having my appendix out that summer, 1922, I 
went back for sophomore year and discovered economics. 
I never paid much attention to anything else at Vassar after 
that. I took the required things, mathematics and chemistry 
always netted me A's. The literature and art courses I elected 
bored me and I got B. The economics, such as they were, fas- 

29 



cinated me. They included not only the law of supply and 
demand, but Labor Problems, The Family, Socialism, fi- 
nally Advanced Economic Theory. Senior year I spent four 
long months in the library reading every word ever spoken 
or written by Ramsay MacDonald and rewrote it all into a 
thesis on which I did not one ray of individual thinking 
but I got A. 

Outside the economics classes, I concentrated on clothes. 
At the end of sophomore year, I went to Parson's School of 
Fine and Applied Arts in New York for a six weeks' course. 
I learned a very important thing, namely that no art school, 
however satisfactory to others, was ever going to teach me 
how to design clothes. We kept going to the Metropolitan 
Museum and taking down Coptic designs which we trans- 
formed painstakingly into colored plates. Then we took bits 
of the designs and made them into or onto supposedly mod- 
ern clothes. We took life drawing but no one ever mentioned 
anatomy to me as a student of dress design. Apparently it did 
not occur to them that I was going to dress living human be- 
ings who had bones and muscles. 

I finished all my assignments in no time and spent hours 
posing for the advanced students. During the other hours, 
spent on the subway and train between Ridgewood and up- 
per Broadway, I decided I'd better learn how clothes were 
made. 

The next summer, 1924, through a friend who bought 
clothes at Bergdorf Goodman, I was able to go into their 
workroom as an apprentice, unpaid. I got to work at eight- 
thirty every morning. I got home about seven-thirty every 
night. We worked on the top floor with skylights letting in 
all the mid-summer sun. I was so tired I cried every night 
when I got home. I learned how expensive clothes were made 
to order. 

30 



The French imports came into Bergdorf s before I left 
that summer. There again were those beautiful clothes which 
legend assured us could only be designed in France. I de- 
cided I'd better go to France and find out what it was all 
about. 

The last college year, '24-'25, was spent half on Ramsay 
MacDonald, half on how I was to get to France. First I tried 
to graduate in the middle of the year. I had enough credits. 
The Dean decided just at that point that one was only capable 
of doing advanced work after three and a half years at Vassar 
and that no diploma should be given out before the end of 
four full years. So I descended to the basement of the library 
and lived through the last semester with my liberal laborite. 

The reason I wanted to graduate six months in advance 
was to have the extra money for going to France. If I'd had 
any sense, I would have just left. As it was, I faced an eco- 
nomic problem of no mean proportion, considering the fact 
that I had exactly $25 a month for everything including 
clothes. 

I tried for a scholarship and muffed it for a very simple 
reason. I went with my best girl friend to a dance at a prep 
school. It was all done to please her little boy cousin. We 
were damned if we were going to take off one of our precious 
four weekends. At Vassar in those days we were only allowed 
to leave the college four weekends in every semester. 

So we went to the dance without signing out. When we 
got there, the whole freshman class was there from Vassar 
also without signing up. They all went right back and con- 
fessed their crime. We maintained silence until someone 
sent an anonymous letter telling all to the head warden. 

The authorities called us in and said they never paid any 
attention to anonymous letters but that we might just as well 
confess. We did. I didn't get any scholarship. 

31 



However, I got to work and began to design clothes for 
my friends. I used a dressmaker nearby for sewing them 
up. I finally got into a dress shop on the edge of the campus 
and designed clothes for it. Those clothes were made in a 
factory in Poughkeepsie and sold quite well. 

I put ads in the Vassar paper to the effect that I had 
worked at Bergdorf Goodman and was ready to do anything 
for anybody. I made a few hundred dollars on commission 
from the shop. 

When I told my French teacher I was going to work in 
France, she just laughed. My French was so bad, I'd dropped 
it after Freshman year. I went back to it senior year and 
took a frightful course in advanced French composition 
which proved quite a boon in writing and made my grammar 
fairly accurate. My accent was, and remains, perfectly awful. 

Then everyone joined hands and told me very plainly 
that I could never get a job in France. They seemed to just 
know it by instinct. France, they insisted, was for the French. 

Bonwit Teller at that time had an employment bureau. 
I can't imagine why. They probably got promising young 
people into the store that way. They made an endeavor to 
help get college people any sort of job. They gave me a let- 
ter to their Paris office. 

One of my friends at Vassar, Evelyn Johnson, had left 
at the end of her junior year. Her mother was married to a 
French perfume importer and spent every summer in France. 
Evelyn decided to go to Paris with me when I sailed after 
college. She thought her mother might help me to get a job. 

I had a few harassed moments in the late spring between 
economics and clothes. After all the time I had spent on la- 
bor problems, plus Bergdorf's workroom, I began to have 
vague humanitarian impulses toward saving the world some- 
how. 

32 



My mother, I might add, had been saving various situa- 
tions all her life. First she kept saving the family finances 
by dealing in family real estate and dabbling around the 
stock market. Then she had always saved the entire Negro 
population of Ridgewood from being thrown out of their 
houses, jailed for drunkenness, or starved to death from lack 
of work. Most of them had been our servants at one time 
or another. She worked for years on the board of education 
and in county politics. Anyone who wanted to know anything 
about anything in Ridgewood always called up mother. One 
night a gentleman called up and said, "Mrs. Hawes, what 
shall I do? Someone is dumping garbage on the lot next to 
my house." Of course, mother told him what to do. 

It is necessary to understand, however, that she never told 
me what to do. When I announced my intention of going to 
work in Paris, she said, "How long are you going to stay?" 

Obviously I come naturally by a desire to save humanity. 
Fortunately, my economics teacher of the moment listened 
to my wailing around about whether or not it was really the 
proper thing to devote my life to the matter of clothes. She 
convinced me without too much difficulty that I might as well 
take the gifts and desires that God had given me and save 
a portion of the population from wearing anything but 
Hawes' designs. 

Finally the spring of 1925 got over. We received our di- 
plomas. We went home. I made a few clothes and prepared 
to sail the first part of July. And I had my first newspaper 
interview. 

A woman on the Newark News decided that, since mother 
was so prominent in our county, I should be interviewed. It 
was a sort of brave-young-girl-just-starting-out-in-the-world 
story with quite a nice picture. It brought results. 

A young advertising lady in a department store in 

33 



Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, wrote me a letter and asked if 
I wouldn't like to report her some news from Paris which 
she could use in ads. I think it was to come out to about $15 
a month. I responded "yes" very loud. 

That gave me another thought. I repaired to the local 
paper and asked them if they wouldn't like me to write them 
something regular from Paris. They said, "Yes, about $10 
worth a month." 

So Evelyn Johnson and I sailed for France, July 8, 1925, 
student third class on the Berengaria. I was not seasick and 
learned to do my first drinking on that voyage. I had three 
hundred dollars and a diamond ring. It had been one of my 
grandmother's earrings. The family had it set and said I 
could always pawn it to get home. I still have it. 



34 



4 



ura 




BEFORE the big docks were built, the harbor at Cherbourg 
was the very nicest place to land in France for the first 
time. You were taken off your big boat and put onto a tug 
which sidled into such a pleasant, small, inefficient world. 
The porters screamed and lost your baggage while you slowly 

35 



digested the low, whitish houses, red tile roofs topped by long 
"Tonique" signs, backed by small green hills. 

We landed on the fourteenth of July. I felt as if I'd gotten 
home after all those years. The fourteenth being what it is, 
the one big national free-for-all fete, our train took fourteen 
hours getting from Cherbourg to Paris. Ordinarily it takes 
about five. It seemed the engineer got off at every town to 
dance in the streets or something. 

I loved it. I always relax the minute I hit the French shore. 
I knew then, as I do every time, that there just isn't any 
hurry. I know now, as I didn't know then, that the food will 
be good at every little inn, the wine lovely and the beds di- 
vine. I like the land and the people in France. If I had been 
born French, I would be very happy about it every morning. 
I wasn't born French so I finally had to come home and be 
an American, after much had happened. I didn't go to France 
because it was beautiful and peaceful and full of good food. 
I went to learn about chic. I learned plenty. 

We installed ourselves in a cheap Parisian pension, Eve- 
lyn and I. We shopped with our girl-friends and I penetrated 
those gigantic dressmaking places, the homes of the French 
couturiers, for the first time. The other girls bought clothes 
while I watched and felt quite terrified at finally being right 
in the middle of all chic. I was so scared I didn't really see 
much, just very large rooms and very smooth salesladies, 
very thick carpets and very beautiful clothes. 

We'd go afterward and have enormous lunches with fifty- 
four kinds of hors d'oeuvres and wonderful cheese. Then 
we'd ride in carriages through the Bois, down long, long lanes 
of trees. I never got used to the idea that a forest should exist 
without any underbrush, even on the edge of Paris. We had 
our tea in some treesy place and rather hurried the driver 
back to the Ritz bar. 

36 



There the boys who'd just graduated from Princeton and 
Yale and Harvard and the whole United States bought drinks 
for us. "Double Alexandres" I learned to drink at that point. 
Once after we'd all had three double Alexandres, which I, 
personally, thought was the name of the drink, we ordered 
another round. The waiter looked at us very hard and said, 
"Do you want a double Alexandre or just a single Alex- 
andre?" 

After a few days, I presented myself at Bonwit Teller's 
Paris office. The head man, French and fat and shiny, said 
he didn't know. I might come back a little later. 

I didn't have time to be discouraged at all, because Eve- 
lyn's mother turned up right away from America. She 
whipped me around to her dressmaker and muttered a few 
brief and well-chosen sentences. I was hired. I didn't know 
for what money or what labor or what kind of place it was, 
but I had the job. I was to come sometime after the fifteenth 
of August. 

Evelyn and I packed up and went along to Evian on the 
Lake of Geneva with her family. They had a regulation 
French villa, red brick, white stone trim, gravel walks, too 
much furniture. I was so preoccupied with getting back to 
my job and wondering about it that I recall very little of 
the visit. 

We motored over the Alps a bit. They are a little too high 
and mighty for my peace of mind. We tried very hard to 
read Ulysses and I failed. We went into Geneva and saw 
where Mr. Wilson had saved the world for Democracy. I 
thought it was very wonderful. The French were more skep- 
tical. 

Finally the middle of August came around and we scam- 
pered back to Paris. Evelyn got a trousseau and went home 

37 



to be married, I went to work. My place of business turned 
out to be a copy house. 

A copy house is a small dressmaking establishment where 
one buys copies of the dresses put out by the important re- 
tail designers. The exactitude of the copy varies with the 
price, which varies with the amount of perfection any given 
copy house sees fit to attain. A really perfect copy of a model 
costs in a copy house just about half what it cost in the place 
where it was born. 

I am sure that wherever important couturiers have flour- 
ished in sufficient numbers to warrant attention, there have 
been copy houses. Certainly when I was in Paris in 1925 
there were plenty of them, and they still continue on their 
illegitimate way. 

Since the depression, the large houses in Paris have low- 
ered their prices and have driven a number of copyists out 
of existence. The whole matter is of interest, both because it 
still exists in Paris and because, if retail designers ever rise 
to any sort of eminence and numbers in New York, we will 
have our copy houses too. They already exist but are not 
very virile. 

Copying, a fancy name for stealing, is also interesting as 
an example of what a curious and rather degraded business 
dressmaking may be. The passion which has been created 
for being chic leads to almost any thing, probably including 
murder. 

Most copy houses in Paris are upstairs, on side streets, 
although the one in which I worked was on Faubourg St. 
Honore, just a bit up from Lanvin near the Place Beauvais. 
It was a very good copy house. Our boast was that we never 
made a copy of any dress of which we hadn't had the original 
actually in our hands. 

The front entrance was through one of those perfectly 

38 



usual heavy stone-rimmed doors, into a dark and reasonably 
unclean hall, up a winding stair to a door which bore a brass 
plate marked with the name of the house, call it Doret. There 
was a door-bell. 

The back entrance was on through the first floor hall, 
across a rather dirty court, up a very narrow and definitely 
dirty flight of stairs to a door with no name on it. That door 
led to the stockroom. The back stairs continued up to a floor 
of workrooms, and above that to a kitchen and small dining 
room where everyone except the actual sewing girls ate lunch 
together, when there was time to eat lunch. 

The house was supposed to be closed from twelve to two 
for lunch. If a customer was in at twelve, we were stuck until 
she left. If there was no customer, the front door was locked 
at twelve, and the loud clarion voice of Madame Doret, re- 
sounded through the place, "A table!" 

We had very good substantial food, soup, rabbit stew, 
salad and cheese. There was plenty of red wine and chunks 
of bread. Monsieur Doret, the only man in the place, was 
master of the table. He always wore a cigarette stuck behind 
his ear for lunch, and spoke in Montmartre argot, that low- 
down slang which one is not taught at Vassar. It took me a 
good two months to get to the point of following the luncheon 
conversation. 

Copy houses are not chic in interior decoration. They are 
in business for the sole purpose of underselling the designers 
from whom they steal their wares. Our main entrance was 
usually unlocked, but there was a gong attached to the door 
so that nobody could sneak in without our knowing it. When 
there was any suspicion of an approaching raid, the front 
door was locked. One rang for admittance. Sometimes we 
answered the bell. If we actually expected a raid, we just 
didn't. All the old customers knew how to get in by the rear 

39 



entrance and when the copy-house-seeking police were on 
the rampage, we didn't want any new clients. 

If the customer got in, she entered a small hall with a 
dingy carpet, walked past a tiny office on the left which was 
used hy the salespeople and the sketcher and, in times of 
great rush, as a fitting room. On the right was a large office 
where Monsieur Doret plied his nefarious trade of keeping 
a double set of books. It appears to me to be especially a 
French characteristic, not in any sense limited to the dress 
business, to hate to pay taxes. 

Monsieur Doret made a great point of doing all transac- 
tions in cash. Although the set-up did not indicate any great 
amount of profit, it was he, rather than any of my rich Amer- 
ican friends, who got the Bankers Trust to open an account 
for me in which I kept a couple of dollars a month. I gathered 
he had both a dollar and a franc account there and they re- 
spected him. 

In Monsieur Doret's office hung such model dresses as 
we kept to show. There were very few of them. We sold mostly 
from sketches. The models were not copies. They repre- 
sented our "front." At the beginning of every season we ran 
up a few boring little sport dresses for show. 

My job was selling Americans who didn't speak French 
also bringing customers, if possible. I improved my sketch- 
ing a bit and helped with that. The hours were nine to when- 
ever you got through, around six, and I received the munifi- 
cent salary of 500 francs a month, about $20 in 1925. 

If a customer arrived without any introduction, or if we 
suspected her integrity, we showed her our own models and 
bowed her out. If we knew her, or her introduction was good, 
we took her into a small salon which contained one large 
table, a useless fireplace, a dilapidated rug, four or five badly 
painted imitation Louis XV chairs. 

40 



We then got together whatever authentic copies we had, 
mostly dresses in the process of being made for other cus- 
tomers. We pieced out with the sketch books and made our 
sales. 

Madame Doret was the brains and energy of it all. She 
had worked in the business under another woman who finally 
retired and left it to her and Monsieur. She was little, about 
five feet three, with wonderful legs and feet. Her hair was 
curly and brown, and her eyes very bright and black. She 
never walked. She had a sort of abbreviated run which got 
her everywhere at once. She spent most of her time making 
lists in the stockroom, and dashing out to see important cus- 
tomers. Her appointments were usually after five, at which 
time she shut herself up in the salon with a batch of foreign 
men, or an odd French woman. Out of this we always received 
a new set of models. 

The house was closed for July and half of August. This 
was to give us a vacation, but primarily to give Lanvin and 
Vionnet, Chanel and the rest time to get their collections 
together so we could copy them. I went to work the fifteenth 
of August, 1925. There were practically no models but they 
began to appear. By September first we had a nice collection 
of fifty or sixty perfect copies, exact material, exact color, 
exact embroidery. 

I never got any satisfactory answers as to how they got 
there, but after a few months I became sufficiently trusted 
to become embroiled in the business of stealing. It wasn't 
considered stealing. It was just business. Lots of people 
wanted Chanel's clothes who couldn't afford them, and we 
filled the gap. 

I discovered, to my great surprise, that we actually bought 
models. I discovered this because I was sent to buy them. I 
was American and young and unsuspected. When it became 

41 



pretty sure that there was a particularly good dress some- 
where, and we were not going to be able to get it free, or 
half price, or by any of the other hooks and crooks which I 
finally learned, we bought it. 

The dress was described to me in detail and usually I 
was given the number. I then repaired to the couturier's in 
question, and either used the vendeuse of a friend, or just 
was very American and had never been to Paris before. If 
the dress was for an older woman, I bought for my mother, 
whose measures I had, and to whom I was taking the dress. 
If it was young enough, I had it made and fitted on me. 

I think not more than four or five models a season were 
bought that way. But there was one more thing to be done 
at the couturier's. The embroidery men always came around 
to us with the embroidery for certain dresses from the big 
houses, particularly Callot, who was successful still. I would 
go and look up those dresses and see how they were made, 
if possible. With the exact embroidery, and my sketch, our 
model turned out pretty authentic. 

So where did the rest of the clothes come from? Three 
major sources: customers, mistresses, and foreign buyers. 
I don't know how many years it takes a copy house to get 
the sources, but ours were both good and plentiful. 

Some of the richer customers were women who bought a 
good many clothes directly from the designer. They then 
filled in their wardrobes chez the bootlegger. They liked the 
bootlegger and they let her copy their clothes in return for 
which they probably paid even larger prices, but still only 
half the price of an original. Perhaps some of them did get 
really low prices. The matter of price is seldom a fixed one 
in any dressmaking establishment, bootleg or not. 

It made me very proud to have tea at the Ritz and see 
our customers in their Chanels, exactly like the real Chanels 

42 



across the table. One of the wonderful things about the chic 
monde in Paris seemed to me to be their fantastic desire 
to all have the same dress. In those days, it was always 
black. It was not smart to be economical, so if you had a 
copy, it really had to be perfect. We dressed some of the 
really chic women. Their return favors probably gave us a 
quarter of our models. 

Half of the models came through foreign buyers. This 
always seemed to me a rather sordid business. I do not know, 
but I assume, that we paid out some money for the privilege 
of copying the models. I really felt like a thief the day I dis- 
covered how that worked. 

I knew that many of the big couturiers delivered clothes 
just exactly in time to make certain boats, or they tried to. 
I always thought it was because they were busy with orders. 
What they really try to do is prevent leaks. But they don't 
succeed. Some of the better copy houses are run by people 
who work, or have worked, in resident buying offices. The 
supply of models is thus assured. 

It was during the mid-season showings in November that 
I was initiated into the mystery of the resident buyer and the 
copy house. All manufacturers or stores who buy in Paris 
work through their resident buying offices which attend to 
everything for them. The resident buyer and his staff arrange 
for tickets to the openings, attend the home-office buyers 
hand and foot, day and night, while they are in town, and 
subsequently receive and ship the purchases to America or 
wherever. 

One of our most frequent visitors, the only one who was 
ever invited to lunch, was a resident buyer for a large Amer- 
ican manufacturer. Madame Ellis was an American who had 
lived abroad for years. She was about fifty-five, exceedingly 
attractive, and pretty smart. Anything she lacked in brains 

43 



she had fully made up for in experience. She seldom got any 
clothes from us, and I never saw her bring anything into the 
place. She was obviously an old and trusted friend of the 
management, and spent a good many weekends at the Do ret 
country place. 

I had a very large beaver coat. A fur coat in Paris is 
quite a rarity among the working class. Mine turned out to 
have a special value. I was requested to don it one day in 
November and go to the resident buying office through which 
Madame Ellis worked. It was toward the end of the mid- 
season buying, the day before a large boat was to sail. 

The buying offices in Paris, excepting a few of those 
owned and run by American firms, are, like the copy houses 
and most of Paris, situated in old stone buildings, built about 
dirty courts. The halls are dark and the stairs wind you up 
to the offices. 

I went up to Madame Ellis' office. She was there, alone, 
with a large pile of boxes from Chanel. The boxes were 
hastily opened, dresses pulled out and shaken from their tis- 
sue paper covers. "Put them under your coat," said Madame, 
"and get them back here as fast as you can." 

I automatically obeyed, delighted to be in the process 
of verifying this source, flew downstairs, into a taxi, to the 
Faubourg St. Honore, up our backstairs, and shed my booty 
on the floor of the stockroom. The workgirls had gone home. 
The fitters were there. They took the clothes and made ac- 
curate patterns of them, while I made accurate sketches. 

Madame Doret even more accurately examined every 
line, made notes on buttons, belts, cut bits of material from 
the seams, and looked over the finishing. We had six or eight 
new Chanels to sell. 

Someone was sure to say, however untruthfully, during 
the examination, "How Chanel has the nerve to deliver 

44 



clothes made this way! Look, it's all cut off the grain. The 
inside seams aren't even finished." 

But, well or badly made, the idea was there, we had it, 
and the clothes went back under my fur coat. I went back 
in a taxi to my waiting Madame Ellis. The models were put 
back in their tissue paper, and off they went to New York 
on a fast boat. 

That was the only office I ever went to for that purpose. 
But it was by no means the only office from which we got 
models. That happened to be an order for New York. We got 
a great many clothes from a Dutch buyer who probably got 
a cut on the profits, or some such thing. And there was also 
a German who did a good deal of running in and out with 
packages. 

There was a regular business of buying muslin patterns 
of dresses. The patterns began to appear as soon as the work- 
rooms of the big designers got going on a new collection. 
They were often not authentic, so we didn't buy many. These 
patterns were, of course, stolen by the sewing girls who 
worked in the ateliers of Vionnet, Lanvin, etc., and copied 
as the new designs were made up. 

A more picturesque source was the mistress. Our best 
mistress was kept by the manager of a famous designer. She 
got all her clothes from the big house. Then she rented them 
out to various copyists to turn an honest penny on the side. 
This source always rather pleased me, but Madame Doret 
didn't really like it much because those particular models 
got into the hands of every copy house in town. 

One couldn't help thinking that all of this might be 
stopped. It might have. But, for one thing, I doubt if the 
fabric houses wanted it stopped. They could have simply 
refused to sell the materials to copyists. They didn't. At least, 
we always bought direct and I was never aware of any diffi- 

45 



culty. The fabric houses must have sold as much to copyists 
of certain materials as they ever did to the originator of the 
model. And there is an old tradition in Paris that the day a 
designer isn't copied, he is dead. 

However, efforts were made to close up copy houses from 
time to time. The general bootlegging atmosphere always 
prevailed at our place. Models were never left in sight, and 
everything was constantly kept in readiness to be hurried 
out the door. 

This may have been because a few years before I went 
there, the place had been raided. The whole story is typical 
of the devious ways in which the copyists continue their ex- 
istence against any odds. The house was raided by the police, 
acting for a combination, which I remember included Lanvin 
and Callot, and, I think, one other large couturier. 

There is a special organization in Paris which is main- 
tained by the couturiers for the purpose of protection against 
copying. Lanvin, Callot, et al., on suspecting a certain copy 
house, turn the matter over to this bureau who in turn calls 
in the police of the district to pull a raid. The copy house 
must be caught with the actual and perfect copies on the 
premises before it can be prosecuted. 

Madame Doret was caught with the goods, perfect copies, 
and a suit was brought. But it all came out okay, and why? 

The intelligent little Madame Doret had once been very 
kind to a customer. The customer had gone motoring with 
a gentleman, and was hurt in an auto accident. The gentle- 
man with whom she was motoring was not the gentleman 
who was paying her bills. How she landed on the hands of 
her copyist at this point, I do not know, but Madame Doret 
got her off into hiding, and took care of the whole affair, so 
that not a word ever got about. The gentleman who paid her 
bills just happened to be a minister in the government. 

46 



So, when the copy house was raided and faced with dis- 
aster, by a simple gesture Madame Doret got the lady she 
had befriended to get the minister of the government to do 
something. The copy house was fined a few thousand francs 
and closed up for two months. 

If couturier designers, people who design for and main- 
tain their own dressmaking establishments, ever rise to a 
sufficient prominence in New York, we will have our Dorets 
to organize the copying for the individual. At the moment, 
copying is not very serious in this field. It is done by ineffi- 
cient people who have not discovered how to get the orig- 
inals. Even when they do copy, their workmanship is apt to 
be bad. 

Of course, when I say there is no copying in New York, 
I only mean to imply that we don't do things in a small way. 
We have mass production! 




47 



5 ex ne tsnotograjynic 




LIFE at Doret's, with its multiplicity of customers, their 
buttons and belts, and an intermingling of excitement in 
stealing dresses, lasted from August, 1925, until the middle 
of January, 1926. Everything that had to do with work was 
a pleasure. 

49 



I learned to recognize the styles of the various French 
designers through selling our copies of their clothes. I 
learned to speak French rapidly, fluently, with a horrid in- 
terspersing of argot. I led the life of a petite bourgeoise 
Parisienne saleslady whenever I could. 

Several times I went to dance halls on Saturday after- 
noon with the other salesgirls. We went to a very large and 
gaudy place on Montmartre, greatly resembling Roseland in 
New York, except that there were no paid girls to dance with. 
We were the girls. 

One went in, took a table, ordered a soft drink, and 
waited. The boys were at other tables or lined up against the 
wall. When the music started, one of them would come up 
and bow very formally. Not a word was exchanged. If you 
liked his looks, you arose and danced. If you didn't like his 
looks, you politely regretted and were then stuck for that 
dance. It was not etiquette to turn down one and immediately 
accept another. 

The music was frightful, a very big band which played 
old American jazz badly. If you danced, not a word was 
spoken by your partner unless you started a conversation. 
All my conversations were of a very desultory nature and I 
wasn't much of a success. The instant the music stopped, 
you were left high and dry just where you stood and had 
to return alone to your table. Nobody was ever drunk. It 
was quite like dancing school. 

Apparently it served the necessary purpose of making 
new friends. One of the girls from Doret's ultimately mar- 
ried a Swiss boy she met dancing there. I never had any such 
luck, although there was one day a gentleman who danced 
with me several times who was not unattractive. Several 
months later, as I was quietly having a drink with someone 

50 



at the Ritz Bar, in he walked with quite an elegant lady. We 
didn't bow. 

Often I went home with one of the salesgirls for a family 
dinner in some very small, very hot, very crowded little 
apartment in the suburbs of Paris. My favorite dish which 
came into their menus was rabbit stew, and each girl had 
a grandmother who had a different way of cooking it. One 
did it with red wine, another with white, another with no 
wine at all. It was always delicious. 

Most of the time after work, I spent by myself. I only 
had one beau that winter. Men are always very very scarce 
in Paris for young American girls except when June brings 
in the tourists. My one young man was half French, half 
American. 

His family were all French in speech and habit and 
I used to be really terrified to go there for meals. I still only 
half understood conversation in French unless it was di- 
rected straight at me. My own answers were so full of the 
slang I'd picked up from Monsieur Doret that every time 
I opened my mouth, I got a laugh or a look of horror from 
my hostess. I was painfully shy. 

So I took to guide books and French architecture and 
gave myself a course on Saturdays and Sundays, walking 
around museums, hunting up odd bits of Romanesque sculp- 
ture on the corners of dilapidated old churches in distant 
corners of Paris. It filled up time. I've forgotten most of it 
and I doubt if it did me any good. I have just never been able 
to distinguish Louis XIV from Louis XV furniture. 

The burden of my life was finances. I had 500 francs 
a month from Doret. I had about $25 a month from writ- 
ing for the newspaper at home and the department store in 
Wilkes-Barre. It all came to some 1,200 francs, the exchange 
being about 25 francs to the dollar. 

51 



For the average French working girl, that was riches. 
The sewing girls got 300 francs a month for working some 
forty-eight hours a week. The other salesgirls in our shop 
had about 800 francs a month with commissions. I was never 
able to come out right on my 1,200. I had to have a room 
with central heat and running water. It cost me 700 francs a 
month. It was madness, but it was clean, large, reasonably 
livable. The bed was set into an alcove in the wall with cur- 
tains so I didn't get any air at night but it could look like a 
living room. I had a little closet with the running water. 
Baths were 3 francs each. It is possible to keep clean without 
baths. 

I made my breakfast on a sterno, had my lunch free at 
the shop. Most of my dinners I ate in the Foyer Feminine, 
a sort of French Y.W.C.A., where there was a cafeteria and 
I could get a meal for a couple of francs, less than ten cents. 
I should have managed but I never quite did. The reason 
was that every time I got a hundred francs ahead, I went out 
and bought myself ninety-nine francs' worth of good food in 
an expensive restaurant. So most of the time I had about five 
francs between me and my diamond ring. 

I didn't have time to get bored with Doret's. After I'd 
mastered the copying business and my French, Madame Ellis 
stepped into the breach. She took to chatting with me in the 
office more and more often. Finally she offered me a job. 
Would I like to sketch, during the next buying season, for 
her New York manufacturer? 

The question meant one thing to me. I would get into 
all the couturiers' houses and see their collections. To Ma- 
dame Ellis and her boss, Mr. Weinstock, it meant something 
much more important. 

The situation among American buyers in Paris during 
the years I worked there was very simple. As a buyer of 

52 



expensive French models for American mass production, 
you stole what you could and bought what you had to. Al- 
most every important buyer took to the first showing of every 
couturier a sketcher. The sketcher was ostensibly an assistant 
buyer. Her real job was to remember as many of the models 
as possible and subsequently sketch them for the buyer to 
copy in New York later. 

The sketching business was a very lucrative one for a 
young woman living in Paris. The buyer who took you in 
bought, automatically, every sketch you could make. I was 
paid $1.50 a sketch by Weinstock and Co. 

Besides the ten really important couturiers, there were at 
least ten others of minor importance. Each couturier shows 
two major collections of clothes each year, in August and 
February. Then there are the mid-season small collections 
in November and April. November is advance spring, April, 
advance fall. The less important houses show first, and the 
openings, first showings, continue over a three weeks' period, 
ending with the most important houses, in those days, Patou, 
Vionnet, Chanel. 

A good sketcher can average fifteen accurate sketches 
per collection. The sketches are not made at the collection, 
of course. It is entirely a question of memory, assisted by 
whatever notes one can make at the showing without attract- 
ing the attention of the salespeople. Having seen the clothes 
and made the notes, the sketcher rushes home to draw the 
dresses. Since the buyer does not buy at the opening, but 
returns later for that purpose, the sketcher has a second 
chance to see the clothes in which the buyer is interested and 
afterwards can correct the sketch. 

As Madame Ellis explained to me, Weinstock would buy 
the entire 300 sketches, netting me $450. And that was not 
all. Through her, I could contact buyers who were not for- 

53 



tunate enough to have their own sketchers. I might sell them 
copies of the original designs and garner in another couple 
of hundred dollars. 

As a sketcher becomes known to the buyers, they leave 
her blanket orders for a hundred sketches at a time of the 
openings which they do not come to Paris to see. Few buyers 
came for the mid-season collections. It was possible to make 
as much as a thousand dollars in the three weeks of the 
openings. Since one could live in comparative luxury on 
$100 a month in Paris in 1926, and, as a sketcher, had a 
chance to earn between $500 and $1,000 every four months, 
it was a perfect existence financially. 

Between buying seasons, one could rest and travel on 
the ill-gotten gains. As an embryo designer, the opportunity 
to see all the work of the Paris couturiers was unquestion- 
ably my greatest desire. The desire was so great that I did 
not for one moment consider the ethics of the matter. I had 
come to Paris for one thing: to learn about designing clothes. 
I was convinced, then and now, the best way to learn was by 
working in the field. And besides it was the only practical 
way for me. I must support myself to my education. 

I accepted Madame Ellis' offer and got my second lesson 
in how to acquire French designs at something less than re- 
tail price. I met the American buyers. 

At the beginning of every new season in Parisian dress- 
making, the city is flooded with dress buyers from all over 
the world. There were fewer American than others, German, 
English, Dutch, South American. I dealt only with the Amer- 
icans. I suppose the rest of them had their sketchers too. 

The American dress buyers were of two categories, those 
who bought for department stores, and for the manufactur- 
ers. Nowadays, Paris buying is relatively unimportant to 
the department store. They rely on the manufacturers to 

54 



buy for them. In the halcyon days before 1929, everybody 
bought. 

The department store buyer had an allowance which 
varied with the size of her department and the importance of 
her store. Many such buyers actually bought only four or 
five dresses a season. They came mainly to get the new 
fashion trends at first hand as a guide to later buying from 
manufacturers in New York. I think the biggest store buyers 
in those days were Bergdorf Goodman and Hattie Carnegie. 
They probably bought fifty to seventy-five models at least. 

The big houses charge around $200 a model. There was 
the duty to pay getting it into the United States. There were 
the sizable traveling expenses of the buyers. It is safe to 
assume that each dress cost $400 in toto, so that an impor- 
tant buyer spent between twenty and thirty thousand dollars 
a season. 

One can easily understand what an evil day it was for 
the French when the department stores realized that buying 
models was not necessary for them. Of course, Carnegie 
and Bergdorf and many other specialty shops still buy a 
good many models, but they have cut down considerably. 
They cannot sell for $250 what a manufacturer has copied 
for $25. 

The big manufacturing houses bought from twenty-five 
to fifty models. They, too, have cut down on the number. 
There are certain people who buy a large number of models 
and afterward rent them out to manufacturers to copy in 
New York. It is not necessary to spend thirty thousand dol- 
lars to know what the French are designing or to make 
copies of it. 

But 1926 gave no hint of the impending disaster. The 
buyers came in dozens. Ours came toward the end of Jan- 
uary. 

55 



Mr. Weinstock was a large, gray-haired, rather dapper 
gentleman, owner of one of the largest and best expensive- 
dress manufacturing houses in New York. He made after- 
noon and evening clothes which sold wholesale about $89.50, 
retail around $175. With him he had two designers. One of 
them, a roundish lady in her forties, had been with the firm 
for ten years. The other designer was a snappy young Italian, 
rather chic and definitely attractive. 

Their great task was to see all the new clothes in Paris. 
Of these they would buy about fifty. The two designers would 
take all the ideas they could garner in. I would provide them 
with as many sketches as was humanly possible. 

Fortunately for me in my new job, the first week or so 
of a buying season is easy. Only the unimportant houses 
are showing. They are not in a position to be rude to buyers 
who see their clothes and don't buy. They are not in a posi- 
tion to stop sketchers from taking a good many notes. 

All the houses knew perfectly well that one in every 
eight people at an opening was a sketcher. The sketchers 
were all young, not particularly well dressed. A sketcher has 
a special photographic way of looking at a dress, engraving 
its image on her mind, marking her program a little too 
freely. In the small shops, we were allowed to ply our out- 
rageous trade because, after all, what difference did it make? 
The buyers would buy a dress even if we did steal six others. 
It was worth it. 

The big couturiers made a decided effort to catch us. 
However, if Mr. Weinstock was buying six dresses at Patou, 
it was a ticklish business, in the face of a $1,200 order, to 
risk insulting the wrong person. They had to catch us red- 
handed which seldom happened. 

The season may have started off easily, but it rose to 
a nerve-racking pitch in the last week. One after another 

56 



the big couturiers opened their doors and showed their hun- 
dreds of new designs to the rapacious buyers. 

On Tuesday, at ten A.M., I would meet the Weinstock 
group at Premet. There I was planted between the two de- 
signers. Every time one of them wanted a dress sketched, 
she'd poke me in the ribs with her elbow. I'd settle my eyes 
on the dress and leave them there until the mannequin who 
wore it had made her last turn, her final flip of the fanny. 

Then I'd carefully make an identifying note beside the 

number of that dress on my program. "No. 23 Champs 

Elysees," the program would say. I'd say "Bl . . 4 bts sq 
nk." meaning black dress with four buttons down one side of 
a square neck. 

After that I would very carefully not look at anything 
until I got another poke in the ribs. I'd just sit and say over 
and over to myself, "Black wool crepe with four six-inch 
pleats on the left hip, patent leather belt with snail buckle, 
square neck quite high with a pleated ruffle on it," and so on. 
Amazingly enough, hours later, it would all come back to 
me. 

The minute the Premet showing finished, I'd dive into 
a taxi and go home. There, with a glass of milk for lunch, 
I'd draw up the notes. Then, into another taxi and so to 
Lanvin at 2:30. After Lanvin, 5:00, back to Premet to look 
over the clothes while the buyers bought one or two. By 
seven, I'd be home again, correcting the Premet sketches and 
making drawings of the notes on Lanvin. 

By 7:30, 1 must be out again with a book containing the 
finished sketches from the day before. If I didn't catch the 
buyers while they were dressing for an evening of gaiety, I 
never would. 

Into the Crillon. "May I come up, Mrs. Morovitz?" Of 

57 



course. None of them ever passed up a chance to get another 
sketch of a dress they wanted but hadn't bought. 

"I have the sketches from Callot, Mrs. Morovitz." She'd 
look them over, order four or five. Then, "I hope, Miss 
Hawes, that you'll get a good set from Patou tomorrow." 

"Of course, Mrs. Morovitz. Today I got Premet and Lan- 
vin. I'll bring them in to you tomorrow night." 

"Oh, well, why don't you wait and bring them the next 
day along with the Patou sketches. There isn't a boat going 
until Thursday." The sketches were sent out on every fast 
boat, giving the left-at-home designers something to work on. 

From Mrs. Morovitz, I'd go on to two or three other 
hotels and other buyers. Finally, after a beer and a ham 
sandwich at the corner bistro, home again. Home, at 10:30 
P.M., to sit down and make thirty finished sketches, the notes 
from Premet, corrected, those from Worth, left over from 
the Monday afternoon showing. Into bed by two in the 
morning. 

Ten-thirty found me repeating the pattern at Paquin. 
two-thirty saw us breathlessly waiting a major event. Jean 
Patou was opening. 

Patou's openings were gigantic. His showrooms were 
vast, delicately Louis something-or-other, and jammed with 
the united buying strength of the world. We sat with our 
backs to the long and tightly closed windows. The Place 
Vendome lay peacefully without. Within, the haze of ciga- 
rette smoke became thicker and thicker as Patou poured out 
his new elegance, his new colors, his champagne. 

Patou's openings were pie for me. I took a back seat, 
which meant there were rows of people between me and the 
clothes and the prying eyes of any saleslady. There was no 
need for any rib-poking indication of what I was to sketch. 

58 



I was to sketch the Fords. A Ford is a dress which everyone 
buys. 

Patou decided in advance what models were to be Fords. 
His showmanship was perfect and unique among the cou- 
turiers. He put Fords on six at a time, all alike in line and 
cut, different in color. This, Mesdames, is No. 46. Here are 
six of them. You will each order this dress. You will all go 
home and make six thousand more. 

My job was to get all the Fords down cold. There were 
at least thirty to a Patou collection and Weinstock wouldn't 
buy more than eight. The rest might be by Patou, but they 
were, for Mr. Weinstock, out of Hawes. From my sheltered 
position, I took elaborate notes and sometimes even sketched. 

Between Fords, I surveyed the buyers. It was a sight 
which never ceased to shock me. These two hundred men 
and women I saw getting tipsy were the people who picked 
America's clothes. 

There was not, in the entire gathering, one woman of 
style, not a male or a female who was distinguishable from 
the other one hundred and ninety-nine. Of mink coats, there 
were plenty, of diamonds, a sufficient number, and not a few 
of them real. There was a vast accumulation of silver fox 
across rows of lumpy laps which had a tendency to let hand- 
bags slide down, over thickish ankles, to Patou's polished 
floor. Here and there was Fashion rampant, usually in black 
with white at the neck and a droopy hat from Rose Descat, 
banal, boring, slim-ankled and thin-nosed. 

When a Ford appeared, all the minks and foxes throbbed 
a little. Descat hats leaned over to graying sleek heads like 
Mr. Weinstock's. Whispers. 

"Mamsel! Your number. Come over here, Mamsel." 
Mutters. Bergdorf 's buyer took that number. Carnegie took 

59 



that number. Lord and Taylor took that number. Macy's 
took that number. Weinstock took that number. 

When you go to an opening, you are given a printed 
program with the number and name of each dress. As the 
clothes glide by, you check the numbers which interest you. 
Maybe you want to buy the dress. Maybe you just want to 
have another look at that sleeve. Maybe you want Elizabeth 
Hawes to have a good hard look at it so she'll be sure to get 
that sketch accurate. 

Every buyer has a certain saleswoman. As the buyer 
leaves after the first showing, she gives the numbers she has 
selected to her saleswoman. An appointment is made for the 
buyer to come back, look over her numbers, buy buy or 
look again. 

Getting out of Patou's after an opening, into the serenity 
of the Paris dusk was to drop ten years from your life, and 
you needed an extra ten years for the next day. The next day 
came Chanel. 

Chanel, the battle cry of the world of fashion for nearly 
a decade. One had to have tickets of admission for all im- 
portant openings. For the Chanel opening, they were at a 
premium. She had two small salons and that was that. If you 
weren't a big enough buyer, you couldn't get in. Weinstock 
bought as many as ten dresses a season so we all got in. 

We got in, our hats over one ear, our coats half pulled 
off our backs. We drove our way through a mob of screaming 
men and women who filled the rue Cambon with their wail- 
ing. They were wailing because they didn't have any tickets 
and Chanel was in a position to be firm. 

We planted ourselves in the front row and I knew that 
at last I was up against it. None of your Patou circus atmos- 
phere. No liquor. Nothing but very tall saleswomen posted 
in every corner, overlooking the crowd, fixing their icy stares 

60 



on every little sketcher and every mink-coated buyer alike. 
No long program to write on. Just a small slip of paper. No 
long looks at the models. They simply flew in and out. 

When I stole designs from the French dressmakers, it 
was, originally, a game which I developed between me and 
the mannequin. Her part was to try and get the dress out 
of the room before I could master the cut of it. My part was 
to digest its intricacies without missing a seam or a button. 
I was good. By the time I'd finished my second season of 
sketching, I could have designed you as pretty a Chanel as 
the master herself. 

But swiping her designs accurately was violent mental 
exercise. If you made any more moves with your pencil than 
enough to write the equivalent of a number, someone sud- 
denly leaned over your shoulder and grabbed your paper 
out of your hand. And these were the sketches the buyers 
wanted most. 

After a Chanel opening, you didn't wait until the next 
day to go back and buy. You made a date for the first hour 
you could get and were taken in relation to your buying 
power. The showing finished about five and we were back 
at seven, after cocktails at the Ritz Bar for the buyers and 
my usual dash home to draw the notes. 

Chanel's success was one of the things that helped drive 
me out of the sketching business. I never had any great re- 
spect, to put it mildly, for the buyers who employed me. 
They knew what they had to do and they done it. I knew I 
wanted to see clothes and I saw them. 

The totally mad desire which filled the world for Chanel's 
designs gave rise to a new angle in stealing them. When we 
went back to Chanel after the opening to buy, my employers 
shut me up in a fitting room. They posted one of the gang at 
the door and the two others went out foraging. 

61 



The showrooms were a madhouse. Clothes were lying 
in tired piles on every chair. Harassed salespeople were 
dashing about, telling their assistants for the love of heaven 
to find No. 234. The minute anyone heard someone else 
asking for No. 234, every buyer in the place asked for it 
too. They were always afraid they'd miss a "good number." 
If you missed a good number, when you got home your boss 
said to you, "For what do I send you to Paris? That you 
should pass up that black satin at Chanel!" 

Weinstock's employes weren't passing anything up. Prac- 
tically every time there was a wild hunt for a number, it 
was being held up in front of me in the fitting room. I was 
sitting comfortably on a chair, guarded from without, sketch- 
ing Chanels without having to play any game. We got away 
with practically the whole collection. 

Then, carried away by their success, one of the buyers 
began stuffing bunches of samples into her mink pockets. 
The other one tore fringe off all the fringed dresses so she 
could have it copied in New York. Finally one of them stole 
a belt off a dress. 

My buyers were no exceptions to the rule. The next sea- 
son at Chanel's, no belt was ever brought into a fitting room 
with a dress. 

I made a lot of money off Chanel sketches that season. 
I finally contracted to do another season of sketching for 
Weinstock, four months later. But my heart wasn't in it. I 
started off with a chip on my shoulder and was definitely 
uncooperative. I made bad sketches and left out as many 
lines as I dared. 

The French were making beautiful clothes and, heaven 
knows, I was in a position to believe that all women must 
want them. I began to feel that the clothes should be paid 
for. 

62 



One day, during my third and last season of sketching, 
the summer of 1926, 1 had an appointment to meet my buy- 
ers at Miller Soeurs. I got there early. Miller Soeurs was 
originally a copy house. After they'd copied for a while, they 
got so they could design well enough themselves so they 
set up a model house of their own. 

When I got there, they just took one look at me. (I'd 
been there the two previous seasons, of course, with Wein- 
stock.) They said, "We're sorry, but we won't let you in." 
I said, "You're perfectly right," and left, feeling much 
better. 

When I met my buyers at Lelong's that afternoon, they 
raised unholy hell with me. They said I had betrayed them 
and whatnot. I'd gotten far beyond the point of caring what 
they thought, but I found I had finished with the business of 
stealing designs. 

Not that it mattered to anybody. There's always some 
new young American girl who looks innocent enough to be 
taken into Chanel's under the guise of an assistant buyer. 

The French have tried to stop the flagrant sketching and 
stealing at the openings. In 1930, they raided the apartment 
of one of the big sketch vendors and threw her into jail for 
a few minutes. And they have tightened up considerably on 
who gets into openings. 

Today a new buyer may be admitted to the house of 
any couturier of importance once if she is properly accred- 
ited. If she doesn't buy, she may not go in the next season. 
She must buy one thing to gain readmittance. 

As a brand new young manufacturing designer explained 
to me, after making her first trip from Seventh Avenue to 
Paris and the openings in 1937, "You see, all you have to 
buy is one blouse and that's only $50. It's worth it." She 
knew how to sketch herself. 

63 



6 



Q_s te 



. , news 




MY FIRST sketching season ended in February, 1926. I 
went into it penniless and came out with $500 in the 
Bankers Trust. I'd been in Paris eight months and was at 
last solvent. I still believed firmly that all beautiful clothes 
were made in the house of the French couturiers and that all 
women wanted them. 

65 



I took one fifth of my capital and invested it in a lovely 
little suit at Callot where I got a special price. I got a spe- 
cial price because I had purchased things there for Madame 
Doret. My saleslady at Callot thought they were for my 
mother. She always felt I should have something for myself 
so I took advantage of her innocence. 

Subsequently I dressed myself at Callot for some time, 
getting some beautiful bargains in stylish clothes which 
lasted me for years. I had an extra fondness for Callot be- 
cause the American buyers found her out of date and un- 
fashionable. She was. She just made simple clothes with 
wonderful embroidery. Embroidery wasn't chic. 

The occasion of my extravagance was my mother's com- 
ing to Europe. I hadn't had a new rag to my back since I left 
America. I met my mother at Cherbourg the first of March, 
dressed in my new suit and feeling very fine. I proceeded to 
initiate her into life as I had seen it in Paris, including the 
food at the Foyer Feminine. 

She proceeded to initiate me into taking taxis, eating 
good food, taking a bath every day, and otherwise enjoying 
the fine things of life. We traveled around Normandy and 
Belgium. 

When she left I still had most of my $400. I also had 
reacquired a desire for an American standard of living. An- 
other buying season was knocking at the door, mid-season 
April, 1926, in the shape of Madame Ellis, who expected me 
to sketch for Weinstock. 

I sketched, filled many outside orders. I banked $750 on 
May first and hated myself a little and all American buyers 
much more. 

The minute that season finished, I leapt onto a bicycle 
and spent three weeks touring Brittany with Bettina Wilson. 

66 



As a foil for the dressmaking racket, it proved eminently 
successful. 

All you can take with you on a bicycle trip is a sweater, 
an extra set of underclothes, and a toothbrush. You have a 
perfect and intimate view of the scenery coupled with just 
the right amount of exercise. At the end of your easy-going 
thirty miles a day, you invariably find that delectable supper 
and wonderful bed for which the French are so justly famous. 

At the end of three weeks, you are exceedingly healthy 
and so utterly filthy that a return to the fashionable life is 
all you ask. True, after ten months in Paris, I was not yet 
fed up on clothes, style, fashion, the Ritz Bar, Montmartre 
or the Bois de Boulogne. 

The buyers appeared to me to be a horrible phenomenon 
created by God to disgust me and all the French couturiers. 
I saw that it was worth it to the French. Obviously, it was 
worth it to me. Otherwise I should not have had my bicycle 
trip. 

After the bicycle trip, I still had time and money to get 
myself to Italy where I joined up with an old college friend. 
We were motored from Florence to Venice and the lakes. 
We ended in Geneva where I enjoyed my first look at the 
Council of the League of Nations in action. I found I was 
getting like the French, skeptical. 

Back in my same 800-franc Paris room, I found myself 
with a few hundred francs and my diamond ring. It was the 
middle of July, 1926. The buyers were about to descend 
again. I decided to have another season of sketching, re- 
plenish my finances. 

While flitting from opening to opening like a bird of 
prey, I developed an idea for the future. The future was 
definitely still Paris to me. I loved it. I had acquired friends, 
both male and female. I wanted to travel more in Europe. 

67 



Being thrown out of Miller Soeurs having brought me up 
sharp on the business of stealing sketches, I must find another 
means of support. 

My plan involved going back to New York to start it. 
The idea was very simple. I saw that there was only one set 
of fashion news from Paris. I had been feeding bits of it 
to the store in Wilkes-Barre. They liked and used it. They 
sent me copies of ads which said that their Paris representa- 
tive told them everything was blue this season "and on 
our fourth floor you will find our version of blue, done with 
the new flared skirt which our Paris representative tells us 
is all the rage." 

I decided that there must be hundreds of small depart- 
ment stores, who could use this news, who had no direct 
contact with the source of all fashion. I couldn't think how 
they ever got on without Paris news every week. I figured 
that a service could be syndicated and sold to such stores for 
a reasonable figure. 

With no further knowledge of small department stores 
in middle-sized cities than my brief reporting for Wilkes- 
Barre, I built up my idea, went back to New York, sold it 
to a syndicate. It was no more unreasonable than most fash- 
ion reporting ideas. 

It took me three months to get my syndicate. I kept being 
sent from one friend on a newspaper to a friend on a mag- 
azine to a friend in a store to a friend in a syndicate to another 
friend in another syndicate. All one really requires for put- 
ting anything over is enough energy and resistance to keep 
on plugging the idea. Someone will eventually fall. 

A very large and grandfatherly gentleman was running 
a syndicate called Cosmos. He gazed down upon me from 
his great height and bulk and listened with extraordinary 
interest. He was syndicating a weekly fashion feature from 

68 



Paris. It was a story with pictures which went to the Post in 
New York, the Detroit Free Press, the Baltimore Sun and 
other papers of equal standing. 

This feature was being run by a boy in Paris who, I 
was told, was doing a remarkable job. However, it was too 
much work for one person. The boy screamed by every boat 
for an assistant. Why shouldn't I be sent, first as an assistant, 
secondly to work out the syndicate store service idea? 

While the old gentleman considered that thought, I hap- 
pened into the newly born New Yorker office. Lois Long 
was doing their fashion column. Lois Long went to Vassar. 
The New Yorker had no Paris fashion news. It was arranged 
in the twinkling of an eye. I was to send them one cable a 
month and one five hundred word story. For this I would 
get $150 a month. 

The Cosmos Syndicate seemed greatly impressed by this 
news. He hired me. I was a fool. I figured everything in 
francs. I told him $25 a week would be plenty until we got 
the store syndicate started. He played poor, but he did send 
me back to Paris. He had to. I didn't have a nickel left. 

I returned to Paris rich enough in prospects for my taste, 
anyway; $250 a month was around 7,000 francs, twice what 
a French midinette gets in a year. Eagerly I sought out Syl- 
vestre, my boss, the other employe of the Cosmos Syndicate. 

Sylvestre's was a typical Paris fashion idea. Sylvestre 
was a typical 1926 Paris fashion reporter. 

What Sylvestre told me was this: He was half French. 
He knew all the great French designers intimately. He un- 
derstood chic as no one ever had before or since. The great 
designers would tell him, Sylvestre, things they would never 
tell an ordinary reporter. He could get advance information. 
He could obtain sketches never given out to any other re- 
porter. 

69 



This is the usual case with fashion reporters in Paris. 
Each one has some magic way of finding out what no one 
else can. Either the reporter has a cousin who is a Duke or 
a rumor floats around that the reporter is very intimately 
connected with the Count de Falderol. Sometimes, my dear, 
they say that certain reporters are the bastard daughters of 
English peers. Anyway, no Paris fashion reporter is quite 
an ordinary mortal. One couldn't employ just humans to tell 
about miracles. 

The grains of truth in Sylvestre's story unfolded them- 
selves to me in the next month. Sylvestre was half French. 
Sylvestre knew Jenny quite well. Jenny was a couturier who 
was of little interest to the fashion world. Sylvestre knew 
the manager of Redfern well. Redfern was about dead. Syl- 
vestre knew Charlotte intimately. Charlotte designed for the 
house of Premet. Premet had nice young clothes which were 
of no particular importance. 

The first day I met Sylvestre, he gave me a rendezvous 
at some hotel on the Champs Ely sees for tea. He told me that 
everyone was going to wear gray that season and that this 
was a very smart hotel. I told him that nobody ever went 
there for tea and besides that, gray was never very much 
worn because it was too unbecoming. 

We left the hotel and went back to his apartment where 
we drank Jamaica rhum and became friends. Sylvestre was 
not very interested in the store project but he took no time 
at all in winding me into his newspaper story. 

His little reporting racket was perhaps the easiest ever 
worked out. We had to send out one fashion story a week. 
Each story was about one designer and carried with it six 
sketches. We got absolutely no information that anyone else 
couldn't also get. 

It worked this way. On Monday we realized that a fast 

70 



boat was getting off Wednesday. Sylvestre called whatever 
big designer we had next on the list. He called the press 
agent whom he had already contacted and to whom he had 
explained all, mostly how he was the most important news- 
paper person in Paris. 

The press agent was being paid to get his designer into 
the papers so it wasn't very difficult for him to lay his hand 
on six sketches. It was particularly easy for him because 
Sylvestre never cared what sketches we got. All we wanted 
was six of them with explanations. 

I would go around and pick up the sketches sometime 
Tuesday. I usually rounded into Sylvestre's apartment late 
Tuesday afternoon, sketches in hand. We had a drink. Then 
we had dinner. Then I sat down at the typewriter and wrote 
two news columns about the six brand new things in question, 
things which may have been designed any time during the 
past four months. At first I often couldn't see anything new 
about them. 

Sylvestre taught me to observe every line and pocket. 
He taught me that everything I saw was new. He taught me 
how to write a fine lead on the subtlety of Vionnet's rhythmic 
line or the delicate softness of a Jenny gown. In the begin- 
ning I often had to do the whole thing over twice, but even- 
tually I got so I could vomit out the stories in an hour of con- 
centrated hyperbole. 

After that, we went out for a drink. The next noon I got 
the stuff off on the boat train. We repeated it the next week. 
When I felt forehanded, I got several stories done in a day 
and left town for a couple of weeks. 

Once we decided we ought to go to the Riviera. Sylvestre 
knew Frank Harris and it began to seem that our reporting 
needed a new note. Frank Harris happened not to be at his 
villa near Nice and we really didn't have much money. We 

71 



spent some time in Marseilles and some more time in very 
cheap night clubs in Nice. One day we went to Monte Carlo 
by bus. We sent quite a glowing report of the new things on 
the Riviera that spring. 

Of course, if you are a conscientious reporter, you don't 
behave like that. You get up in the morning and go from one 
hat place to another bag place to the Ritz for lunch. You 
cultivate the right people, your cousin the count, or your 
rich friend who has a villa in Cannes. 

You night-club in the right places. You follow the ponies 
to the races and the chic monde all over the lot, from London 
to the Lido. And you suffer. 

The minute you persuade yourself or some newspaper 
or magazine in America that there is fashion news in Paris 
or anywhere else on the Continent every week, you are in for 
a life of hell. Unless you're blessed with a good healthy im- 
agination and no inhibitions, you get looking like all other 
fashion reporters in Paris. 

Most of them are quite gaunt. Their skin is dry and they 
have a pinched look around the mouth. They are the dow- 
diest looking bunch imaginable. They don't make enough 
money to buy expensive clothes and there isn't anything else 
in France. 

Only four times a year is there really fashion news in 
Paris. Two of those times, it's big news, all the summer or 
winter clothes, shoes, hats, bags, jewelry which Paris can 
think up, and that's plenty. 

The other two times, it's mid-season collections, small 
fill-in showings of advanced spring or fall clothes, tossed out 
for foreign buyers. There really isn't much in those show- 
ings, but the clothes are new and one can legitimately report 
them as news. 

In between times, the reporter must manufacture brand 

72 



new fashion ideas. If you feel like it, you can go to Biarritz 
or Cannes or the Lido or wherever you can see real, live 
society women wearing the clothes you formerly saw and 
have already reported from the previous openings. 

You can report it all over again as something to scream 
over. If you're at all bright, you know perfectly well when 
you see the clothes on the mannequins at Chanel's which 
ones are going to be seen later at different resorts. If you 
want to, you can find out from the saleswomen in the various 
dressmaking houses who bought what. Then all you have to 
do is watch the society columns to see where the women go 
and report them there, in the clothes. 

Even if you go all the places and do all the things, you 
are still faced with those dreadful weeks when the chic monde 
seems to have evaporated. The couturiers seem to have bur- 
ied themselves. It rains. There is nothing new under the 
sun. 

You rewrite old columns in a new way. You find eleven 
different ways of telling the world that women in Paris are 
wearing two silver foxes around their necks. You concen- 
trate on details to such an extent that all the world begins 
to hinge on whether The Duchess de X had on heels an inch 
high or one and a half inches high. 

After piling it on thicker and thicker, you send it off 
to your newspaper syndicate. In a week or so, all the women 
in the United States are informed of the major events in 
life. They are left in no doubt but that, unless they can get 
two silver foxes, they are absolutely out of fashion. They 
are bombarded with news of what the chic monde is wearing 
for bathing at the Lido. They don't know where the Lido is 
or what it looks like and they go to Jones Beach every Sun- 
day, wearing whatever kind of bathing suit Gimbel chose 
to provide that season. 

73 



There must have been over a hundred American fashion 
reporters in Paris in 1926. Many of them conscientiously 
sent out news regularly to American newspapers. From what 
I see now and again in the news columns, a lot of them are 
still there, turning out the same stuff. 

However, it is my impression that the American news- 
paper situation in re Paris fashions is cleaning itself up. 
The U.S. newspapers have discovered that it is not really 
good business for them to have in their columns fashion news 
about things which can't be bought on the spot. They now 
incline toward columns with a little box at the bottom saying 
that if you will write in, you will be told in what local store 
the item mentioned can be bought. The local fashion girls 
are having their day. 

In 1926 there were many Paris offices devoted to the 
business of sending news to the various fashion and women's 
magazines in America. Of those, Vogue and Harper 9 s Bazaar 
were the largest. They are now about the only offices left. 
They have a unique position in Paris, being recognized as 
the most important publicity agents the French can use. The 
French couturiers and these two magazines are in business 
together, in business to promote chic and keep the world of 
fashion spinning. 

As with the newspapers, there is a vast difference today 
in the amount of French news crowding the pages of Harper 9 s 
Bazaar and Vogue. In the late '20's, ninety percent of the 
drawings and photographs were the work of the Parisian 
couturiers, often elaborate creations, which nobody ever 
wore anywhere. Now those pages are filled only with such 
French designs as actually come to America and are, for the 
most part, manufactured here. Many pages in both magazines 
are devoted to clothes created in America for American life. 

Many of the offices which worked from '25 to '29 for 

74 



American magazines have been closed. The Ladies Home 
Journal, the largest woman's magazine in the United States, 
now has no Paris office, and all because they hired a very 
bright lady as Fashion Editor about 1932. 

The lady had worked previously for a department store 
and also for Harper's Bazaar. She said she saw no reason 
why the Ladies Home Journal should maintain an expensive 
Paris office. She said that magazine catered to middle class 
American women who never actually saw a French original 
design. She thought her public was interested in news of 
what existed in fashion in America, whether it had been orig- 
inated in Paris or on Seventh Avenue. 

In 1926, however, America thought it needed Paris fash- 
ion news and Sylvestre, myself, and a hundred others were 
all busy supplying the need. We were doing our best to build 
up the French legend. 

When I had thoroughly mastered the business of writing 
Sylvestre's column for him so that he had literally nothing to 
do but draw down about $200 a week from the syndicate, I 
went at him about the store service. I explained to him that 
all the small department stores needed to know directly what 
was going on in the big center of fashion and that we were 
there to do it. 

At first Sylvestre wouldn't bite, but as he began to see 
the matter in terms of additional royalties, he reflected. 

He realized that he and only he could get confidential 
information from the big designers. He got worried about 
the stores not realizing the fact. Finally he became so in- 
trigued, he told me to go ahead and work out the form and 
content for the service. He would go to America to see that 
the Cosmos Syndicate sold it properly. 

I, therefore, began to compile short reports for stores. I 
made thumbnail sketches and resumeed everything weekly: 

75 



shoes, hats, bags, gloves, belts, clothes, colors. I indicated 
what was very new, less new, going out. 

Sylvestre got to New York and the thing began to sell. 
I was rather harassed because I had to continue turning out 
the fashion column and make an effort to cover the entire 
Paris market weekly for the store service. It wasn't more 
than a full time job, but I could have used a secretary. 

After about six weeks, Sylvestre returned triumphant. 
The store service, my brain child, had been sold to Lord and 
Taylor. Lord and Taylor already had a large office in Paris 
with plenty of employes who could tell them all. However, 
Sylvestre had convinced them about his private resources. 

I was so busy being appalled by Sylvestre's salesman- 
ship to Lord and Taylor, I forgot that some small stores out of 
New York had bought the service, too. I was so sick of writ- 
ing the horrible fashion story weekly, I decided the time had 
come for action. 

My action was quick. I found that Dorothy Shaver, a 
vice president of Lord and Taylor, was in Paris. I called 
upon her to make sure my ideas on the matter of the store 
service were right. She grimly agreed with me that I was 
correct. It was nothing for Lord and Taylor. I thereupon 
gave the idea to Sylvestre with my blessing and retired from 
the Cosmos Syndicate. 

I could retire gracefully because there was the New 
Yorker. One hundred and fifty dollars a month was enough to 
live on until something else came along. Writing news for the 
New Yorker was my favorite fashion job of all time. Even my 
nom de plume now gives me a small laugh. "Parasite." Some- 
one suggested it at a party given in honor of a brown dress 
suit, whose I don't recall. It epitomized the whole fashion 
business much better than I, in my innocence, realized. 

76 



Anyone who has ever written fashions will, I am sure, 
appreciate what it means to be allowed to write with no em- 
broidery just what you think about them. Practically nobody 
in Paris knew I wrote for the New Yorker. I never used it as 
an entree to see the collections until shortly before I quit the 
job. 

Not a soul on the New Yorker ever gave me a kind word 
during the three years I sent in my pieces. On the other hand, 
no one ever complained. The advertising department never 
raised its ugly head and said that if I thought Patou was no 
designer, I'd better keep still about it or someone would 
withdraw his advertising. 

After burbling for the New York Post, the Detroit Free 
Press, et al., that everything was divine, glamorous, chic, 
gorgeous, as Sylvestre had taught me, I would retire to the 
fastness of my own little apartment and tell the New Yorker 
readers that Molyneux was a good safe designer with not 
too much originality; that Patou thought he'd designed a 
coat if he put enough fox fur on it; that Talbot had her tongue 
in her cheek when she made baby bonnets. The New Yorker, 
ladies and gentlemen, is the only magazine I ever saw which 
had the guts to let its fashion reporters speak their minds. I 
expressed myself freely in its pages, and through those pages 
I was made to face facts from time to time. When the printed 
copy of the magazine came to me in Paris, along with some 
of my reports, I'd read L.L.'s comments on the new, oh so 
new, things I'd written up. 

Those jersey bathing suits which took my eye at Biarritz 
existed a whole year ago in the good old U.S.A., said Miss 
Long. Those daisy little sandals which Dufeau just put out 
were shown six months ago in Delman's. Patou's newest ten- 

77 



nis dress differed very little from one of Best and Co. last 
summer. 

Slowly an idea began to penetrate my mind. All beauti- 
ful clothes are designed in the houses of the French cou- 
turiers? Well. 



78 



Sffi 



astar 



of Qty 




A FTER clearing my head of the Cosmos Syndicate by dint 
jLJLof some very fast bicycling in Provence, I came back to 
Paris. It was March, 1927. 1 had acquired an apartment and 
a maid and was actually in no mood to live only on the New 
Yorker's money. 

79 



The previous fall when I was in New York, I had come 
upon a very conspicuous box in the New York Times one 
Sunday. R. H. Macy was advertising for a Stylist to send to 
their Paris office. I didn't know what a stylist was, but I knew 
I wanted a job in Paris. 

The ad said "Apply by letter only." I decided nothing 
would be lost by looking up a Macy's merchandising man 
who was a friend of a friend and thereby applying in person. 
I arrived bright and early Monday morning at Macy's on 
Thirty-fourth Street. I found my man. He turned out to be 
an old schoolmate of Jack Strauss. 

I was duly introduced to Mr. Strauss who, in turn, intro- 
duced me to one Mr. Meyer. Mr. Meyer was a very pleasant, 
small, thin, blue-eyed and speckled German about forty-five. 
He had begun his career as a ribbon clerk or something 
equally proverbial in Macy's. He had risen and risen. He 
had decided, finally, to retire. 

R. H. Macy didn't want him to retire. There is one thing 
to be said for that store, if they want you badly, they arrange 
to keep you somehow. Money for the salaries of Macy's ex- 
ecutives is plentiful. They arranged a compromise with Mr. 
Meyer whereby, since he wanted to live in Europe, he would 
take a part time job overseeing their Paris office. 

This brought up the fact that they had no Paris stylist. 
The word stylist is not definable because styling is a bastard 
art. It was one of those bright thoughts which flowered dur- 
ing the great prosperity. The department stores were in the 
money and their thoughts wandered to "good taste." 

Of course, before entering wholeheartedly into any such 
venture as actually hiring people to see that merchandise 
was in good taste, Macy's would normally test the idea. They 
made many studies throughout the store. They tried out good 
taste in rugs and fabrics, in pocket-books and dresses. Good 

80 



taste has never been adequately defined by anyone. Macy's 
never tried to define it to me. 

They simply said that they had put on a table in the fabric 
department several bolts of material. Some were in good 
taste, some bad. The public bought out the material in good 
taste first, Macy's said. It worked that way in all depart- 
ments. Always the public wanted what Macy's conceived of 
as good taste. 

The truth of the matter was very simple. Macy's had 
been doing an enormous business in cheap merchandise for 
generations. They employed a large number of buyers who 
had been there for years. The buyers were in a rut. They 
supplied the public with the same sort of thing they had 
bought fifteen years ago. Times change and the public taste 
changes along with them. 

Macy's buyers had been bringing home the bacon in 
profits all those years. Macy's wanted good taste if it was 
what sold, but they weren't going to fire a lot of tried and true 
money-makers. The idea was to employ professionals in 
"good taste," i.e., stylists. 

A stylist is not a buyer nor is she strictly a promotion 
artist. She was originally put in to urge the buyers to get 
newer merchandise, chic merchandise, smart merchandise. 
The stylist had very little authority over the buyer in most 
stores. Persuasion was her chief tool. At the height of styl- 
ing, in 1928, all stores in New York who had any pride at 
all had a stylist for every two or three departments. They 
saw to it that the departments contained things for the adver- 
tising manager to exploit. 

Mr. Meyer looked me over that wintry Monday morn- 
ing. I was dressed in black with two silver foxes. I had on 
the latest Descat hat. I had on my diamond ring. Mr. Strauss 
had introduced me. 

81 



After listening to the story of my life, I was immediately 
turned over to a bright young girl. The girl took me all 
around the store. We arrived first in the shoe department 
and she stopped in front of a show case. "Which shoe is in 
good taste and why?" she inquired. 

With my intimate knowledge of what the chic European 
made-to-order woman was wearing, I whipped out the an- 
swer. Ninety percent of the shoes were awful. Nobody wears 
shoes with extra trimming. Nobody wears walking shoes with 
French heels. Nobody wears shoes with round toes. 

I assured her, in the hat department, that nobody wore 
hats with anything but grosgrain ribbon for trimming. At 
the jewelry counter, I allowed that everyone was wearing 
heavy gilt modernistic jewelry and long strings of pearls. 
Nothing else except real jewels. 

The girl became more and more pleased. I told her what 
had been worn on the Riviera, at Cannes where I had not 
been last spring. She took me back to Mr. Meyer after an 
hour or so. On the way back, I asked her what she had been 
doing to me. She said it was a style test and that I was per- 
fect. 

The upshot of it all was that the job was reduced to two, 
me and another lady who really knew Mr. Strauss. I never 
saw her but I gathered she was older and chicer. Neither of 
us had ever been inside a department store before except to 
shop. We both, however, convinced Macy's that we had good 
taste. 

They hired the other lady and I went back to Paris for 
the New Yorker and my syndicate job. Naturally, when that 
blew up, my thoughts turned to Macy's. 

I took a long taxi ride, away from the Musee Rodin, be- 
hind which I lived, across the Seine, up through the Place 
Vendome, along the endless boulevards into that section 

82 



where I had not been since the old days of transporting Cha- 
nel's models. 

There, in the Citee Paradis, a cobble-stoned, dead-end 
street, was Macy's Paris office, a small stone building with 
a very high ceiling, light basement and two floors above it. 
The first floor contained many little offices, one beside the 
other. The top floor contained the "comptabilite," those desks 
full of bookkeeping and safes full of money, the offices of 
the French director of the office, and that of Mr. Meyer. 

Everything worked out fortuitously because the lady 
Macy's had hired in New York when I was after the job had 
just quit or been fired. I said I'd start at any salary they liked 
for a few weeks and we could see what happened. I was 
hired for $50 and an expense account per week. 

My duties, like those of the lady just demised were these : 
I was to report on Paris fashions to R. H. Macy in New 
York. That was my meat. I was to go out with New York 
buyers and prevent them from buying anything in bad taste. 
The buyers were to be told that they could only buy what I 
allowed them to buy. The price and quantity were their 
worry, the appearance mine. I was to descend every morn- 
ing on arrival at the Macy's Paris office to the basement. 

In the basement was all the merchandise previously 
bought by any Macy buyer in Paris. I had two little rubber 
stamps. One of them was marked "O.K." and had a space 
below for my name and a date. The other was marked "See 
letter No. xx" with a place for my name and a date. 

The first stylist had been given the right and duty of re- 
turning any merchandise which was purchased when her 
back was turned and which she considered to be in bad taste. 
It was easy to see why she lasted only three months. Mr. 
Meyer had then decided that it was preferable to ship the 

83 



bad taste merchandise but to have me write a letter explain- 
ing why I disapproved of it. 

The first two or three weeks I worked for Macy's were 
easy and I accomplished wonders. I organized all the fash- 
ion reports and had them mimeographed. I worked them out 
with sketches and resumeed them just as I had the Store Serv- 
ice Syndicate. Macy's were bowled over with the beauty and 
simplicity of that gesture. It looked like a hell of a lot of 
work and was sent in quantity so all the buyers in New York 
could have one. 

There was only one person in Macy's in New York who 
evidently resented all my trouble. It was a gentleman named 
Oswald Knauth. I hadn't met him at the time but I gathered 
he was pretty important and also very odd. He sent a brief 
message via Mr. Meyer to the effect that he never wanted 
any report sent to him of more than fifty words and that most 
of the time he thought fifty words was too long. Mr. Oswald 
Knauth is now the president of a large and important group 
of stores in the United States. 

I inspected merchandise and sent along word that it was 
all in terribly bad taste. There were no New York buyers 
around and life was pleasant. I realized that I'd better be a 
good girl. I took my expense account in hand and lunched 
at the Ritz and night-clubbed with the chic monde. After 
three weeks I had my salary doubled. 

Suddenly my first buyer from New York turned up. She 
was a jewelry buyer. We went out to buy together. 

The first place we went was filled with artificial pearls 
and rubies and diamonds made into necklaces, bracelets and 
what not. The buyer would pick up a necklace and say, "How 
do you like this one?" I always responded, "I think it's 
awful." 

84 



After fifteen minutes of that she said, "This is the line 
I sell the most of in New York." 

We were both quite desperate. I made a hasty decision. I 
decided that Macy's, whether they knew it or not, couldn't 
possibly be paying me $100 a week to ruin their jewelry de- 
partment. I said, "Why don't you just go ahead and buy 
whatever you want?" 

While she placed an order, I just smoked and looked out 
the window and began to wonder exactly what Macy's 
thought they were doing, hiring girls like me to tell their 
buyers what not to buy. 

I lasted seven months in the Macy's job. I attribute it to 
the fact that I adopted the same policy with all the buyers. I 
led them to what I had found that was chic in the Parisian 
sense. I urged them to buy at least a little of that. Then I 
went about with them and smoked a good deal while they 
got what they wanted. 

Part of my job as stylist was to buy samples of whatever 
I thought was exceptionally chic in Paris between onslaughts 
of the real buyer. I sampled things. 

Sampling means that you see hundreds of new bags, for 
instance, and buy one of whichever you like best. You send 
them on to New York in the fond hope that you will get a re- 
order to justify your original purchase. Buyers hate this 
sampling for two reasons. It's expensive: chic's the object 
and not price, and, more than likely, it's no use to the buyer 
because some manufacturer in New York has already gotten 
a sample and copied it. More important to the buyer, if she 
gets using your samples it may become obvious to the mer- 
chandising man, her immediate boss, that she might as well 
just stay in New York and let some resident buyer or stylist 
do her foreign buying. 

Whenever I got particularly bored with sampling in 

85 



Macy's Paris office, I found it a good idea to betake myself 
to some resort to see what was going on there. One thing must 
be said for my experience with R. H. Macy. Once they had 
hired me, they let me do my job as I saw it, entirely and with- 
out interference. When we got so we saw the job differently, 
they fired me. 

My first resort trip was Biarritz. All the fashion report- 
ers went down. I told Mr. Meyer I thought I'd better go down. 

He agreed that where went the chic monde, there should 
I follow. If Macy's didn't know at once what was worn in chic 
European spring resorts, how could they hope to do a good 
summer business? 

I had my first experience, in Biarritz, of leading the 
chic life. I went to the right beach to swim although there 
were three others much nicer. I went to drink afterward at 
the right bar, at the right hour. I went gambling when I was 
supposed to gamble, and danced when I was supposed to 
dance. 

I was lucky because, although I was a reporter, I had a 
boy friend. Most of the reporters were wandering around, 
gaunt, grim, and alone, observing like mad. They were a 
great help to me. After a couple of drinks, I usually relaxed 
my vigilance and concentrated on Chemin de Fer. I made 
quite a lot of money gambling. 

The next day, on the beach, I'd sidle up to another re- 
porter and she'd tell me who wore what at the Casino last 
night. After just two days, I found I could lead my own life. 
I went to my first bull fight, at San Sebastien just over the 
Spanish border. I stopped going to the beach because, al- 
though it was the season, it was frightfully cold. 

I borrowed a car and took another reporter motoring 
along the coast to St. Jean and decided that if I ever had to 

86 



come to Biarritz to observe the chic monde again, I would go 
directly to St. Jean. 

After a week of it, I went back to Paris. I tended to my 
buyers until it got to be June and I had to go to England be- 
cause there were the races at Ascot. Later, I had to go to 
Le Touquet for Macy's news, and because a group of friends 
were driving down anyway. 

Came July and the dress buyers. I was sent off to Vienna 
with one of them, one of those who had been at Macy's for 
the last fifteen years. We got on the train one night to go to 
Vienna. She didn't have a book or a magazine. She just sat 
for twenty-three hours. 

We were supposed to look into the Vienna market to see 
whether or not, as rumored, one could now buy dresses there. 
We arrived on a weekend and it became the duty of a little 
Viennese boy from the office to escort us about the city, sight- 
seeing on Sunday. We had a car. It stopped outside a large 
cathedral. 

The boy asked the buyer, who was my senior in every 
way, whether she would care to get out and see the church. 
"Is it your best church," she inquired, "because if it isn't, I 
don't think I want to bother." 

Later, at lunch, he was chattering along and said, "I 
read a good deal of American poetry, in translation of 
course. Have you ever read Walt Whitman?" 

"Why should I read Walt Whitman," the buyer wanted 
to know. "I'm a dress buyer." 

I had my first airplane flight, back from Vienna at Macy's 
expense. And I had one really practical idea for them. In 
Vienna I found that handknit sweaters cost about $3.00. In 
Paris, Schiaparelli was just beginning to have some success 
with her handknits. She worked in her little first-floor apart- 

87 



ment and all the chic women paid her $12 for her sweaters 
with their modernistic designs. 

Macy's, of course, I had forced to get a few. They were 
so chic. Even I realized, however, that they were a little ex- 
pensive to resell. 

The French head of the office and I discussed my idea 
and he authorized me to obtain some modern sweater designs 
in Paris and send them to Vienna to be copied at $3.25. 
Nothing came of it in New York. Apparently modernistic 
designs on sweaters at $12 retail were not in good taste for 
Macy's in 1927. 

Those were the only designs I ever had copied for 
Macy's. Of course, we, like every other resident office, sam- 
pled plenty of things which we suspected were never to be 
re-ordered but only to be copied. Our problem in such sam- 
pling was to beat down the manufacturer on the price of the 
sample by all but promising him that we would get a re-order. 

Mr. Meyer suggested to me that he knew I'd been a 
sketcher and that I might come through for Macy's but la 
politesse forbade his forcing the issue. I told him this type 
of work no longer interested me. 

The methods of the good buyers were more profitable to 
some department stores than either sampling or stealing. 
One handkerchief buyer I knew, for instance, had such a 
system for beating down the French manufacturers that I 
am sure they couldn't basically afford to sell to her at all. 

She would start by getting the price per dozen. She would 
then take the price per dozen dozen, compare the two, and get 
the first price reduced. She would then go off into dozen 
dozen dozens and get the price reduced again. She would 
then assure the manufacturer that everyone in New York fol- 
lowed her store's buyers and that he was not in any position 
to refuse her anything. When she left any given handkerchief 



manufacturer, he had sold her thousands of handkerchiefs 
and probably lost a half a cent on every one. 

By the time I'd been five months with Macy's, I did vir- 
tually nothing but report fashions. As I saw each new buyer 
from New York, I established some sort of contact which 
always ended by seeing her point of view and not only let- 
ting her buy what she wanted, but also ceasing in large part 
to send her samples. 

I was bored to death but $100 a week was so many 
French francs I couldn't see quitting and reducing my stand- 
ard of living back to New Yorker levels. And at last, in the 
seventh month, my boss fired me by letter from New York. 
It was the happiest day of my life, bar none. 

Designing was what I had come to Paris to learn. I'd 
learned a lot but I hadn't designed a dress except for myself. 
I had watched American manufacturers steal and the de- 
partment stores buy. They all got the same thing. I was still 
sold on the fact that they all had to have fashions from Paris. 
I decided to go back to New York and sell some department 
store the idea of letting me design clothes in Paris and send 
them back. 

The point was that, being in Paris, I would have the 
French trend in design. The store which hired me would have 
a different version of the trend from any other store. 

Back in New York, I talked to Altman, who didn't know 
what I was getting at, and to Lord and Taylor, who didn't care 
what I was getting at. I decided to work for Lord and Taylor 
and show them. Lord and Taylor had just planned a whole 
bureau of stylists in Paris. It seemed to me that somehow by 
working in the bureau I'd find a chance to design for them. 

The lady who was to head the Paris styling bureau had 
left for Paris. I followed her over and got hired for $40 a 
week and an expense account. 

89 



I keep mentioning the expense account because it was 
important in Paris. It made it possible for you to live free 
all day and have a really clear salary. As a stylist, it was 
necessary to be out in the town looking up chic most of the 
time and taxis were the only quick way of getting about. As 
a stylist it was necessary to go to chic places. The expense 
account could pay for most of one's food and all of one's 
traveling. 

Nobody mentioned my designing in Lord and Taylor's 
Paris office. I was given a desk in a row of five. The head 
stylist had an office to herself. There were three others, an- 
other young American girl, much like myself, a youth who 
had worked for Lord and Taylor in New York, an older 
American lady who had lived for years in Paris. The older 
American lady had been the only Paris stylist for Lord and 
Taylor but, I gathered, had not fully realized the necessity 
for more and more and more fashion from the center of style. 
The fashion staff was completed by a French secretary and 
myself. 

I had been over the bumps in Macy's Paris office and 
knew a good deal about the Paris market. The Paris market 
is not only all the big dressmakers but also all the designers 
of hats, bags, gloves and what not, and, last but not at all 
least, the manufacturers of toilet accessories, boxes, hand- 
kerchiefs and their cases, jewelry, everything to make the 
women happy. 

There were also all the Paris decorators. Macy's had had 
a modern furniture show before I worked for them and Lord 
and Taylor were very, very decoration-conscious. 

I had a rather annoying incident when I was fired from 
Macy's. My address book disappeared from my desk where 
I left it the day I was fired. When I came back to collect it 

90 



the next day, there it wasn't. It contained the addresses of 
everyone from whom Macy's bought. 

The idea is that one store can have sources of which no 
other store knows. This is of course all sheer nonsense. The 
minute any manufacturer in any town sells anything to any- 
body, he instantly notifies all the other stores and tries to 
frighten them into buying something too. 

When I got the Lord and Taylor job, I wanted my old 
address book quite badly. It had taken me months to make it 
and it meant retracing the same ground. Of course, nobody 
in the Macy's office ever had the foggiest idea where the book 
could possibly have gone. I finally found my old secretary 
who had also been fired from Macy's. She immediately said 
she was so sorry she hadn't informed me before, but that of 
course in her thorough way of providing for the future she 
had always kept a copy of my addresses for herself. She 
made me a new copy of my book so my life in L and T started 
smoothly. 

We all worked more or less on everything. I was specifi- 
cally given the decorating departments. It was fun working 
for Lord and Taylor. Somehow there wasn't the pressure one 
felt in Macy's. We none of us got much money but there were 
six to do what I had been supposed to do alone at Macy's. 
All the people were consequently more human. 

The head of the styling office kept pretty busy. She didn't 
like Paris and always refused to eat where she thought it was 
dirty. She didn't speak French much. The older lady, who 
had always lived in Paris, had a fixed social life. She under- 
stood pretty clearly what she was supposed to do and took it 
quite seriously. 

I found myself with a couple of healthy young Ameri- 
cans who had never worked in Paris before, eager to learn 
all about the great world of style. I taught them all I knew 

91 



and we got our jobs so boiled down that we never had to work 
more than half a day, sometimes not even that. I knew all the 
sources and we just split up what we had to see to, working 
singly or in pairs as seemed advisable. The idea was not like 
the French, that life is leisurely and work may be done 
slowly. We did all our work with the utmost speed so that in 
one day we could easily do three days' tasks. 

For instance, I thought it would be nice for Lord and 
Taylor to have some fine modern rugs. It only took me one 
day and many taxis to notify a few designers that I wanted 
rug designs. I could have spent two weeks doing it. Then it 
took me another couple of days to collect the designs, get 
prices on possible execution in Paris, make up a report and 
send it all into the head office in New York. 

The disturbing part of it was that no word ever came 
back from the head office of any of the work we actually ac- 
complished. Just what happened to it, I don't know to this 
day. We only tracked down one case to its finish. 

The youth and I thought that a set of modern monograms 
would be nice for the men's department. We got an allow- 
ance of $50 to have them made up. We got a friend of mine, 
a painter, to work on them. This consumed many many days 
with trips to the painter's studio, long discussions, drinks. 

Finally the monograms were completed and sent over, 
we thought for Christmas handkerchiefs. A year later when 
the boy returned to New York to work in the store there, he 
ascertained that the monograms had never been used. He 
looked about and found them under a blotter on someone's 
desk. 

It was fundamentally discouraging, getting up an idea, 
working it out, and never hearing another word about it. It 
was an easy pleasant life leading to nothing but cafes on the 
left bank where we went for breakfast after reporting for 

92 



work at nine. True, after breakfast we went on to a box manu- 
facturer and got whole new sets of closet boxes made up for 
some buyer to see and order on when she arrived. She either 
didn't arrive or didn't order. 

Somehow it was just too far from Paris to New York. 
The ideas got lost en route. We never knew whether some- 
thing had already been done in New York. We never knew 
whether it was cheaper to do it in New York or Paris. We had 
the same old Macy's trouble, the buyers didn't want us. 

Lord and Taylor's buyers didn't need us much either, 
because they weren't so old nor so set as the Macy buyers. 
They probably even read Walt Whitman like their custom- 
ers, some of them. The Paris stylist had a bastard job. 

The New York stylist was nearer the heart of things, but 
she had a bastard job too. No buyer wanted her. She was 
just another salary to the merchandising man. If the buyer 
couldn't supply what the store thought the public wanted, 
having an attractive girl at hand with large ideas on what was 
smart didn't solve the problem. 

The point is: the stylist didn't have any better taste than 
anyone else. The stylist was supposed to have newer taste. 
Maybe she did have newer taste, but there was nothing to 
prove she could figure out what the majority of women 
wanted, because she had been to a good school and afterward 
done her time in European art galleries. 

The department stores discovered a lot of this when the 
depression came. I think that most of them discovered it is 
the job of the buyer to know both her figures on sales and 
profits and the general level of the public taste. No store can 
afford to get above the general level of its public's taste. 
They just lose their customers. The problem of the depart- 
ment store is to keep exactly even with changing taste. 

What the chic European woman wears where she goes is 

93 



of minimum importance to a department store buyer. The 
clientele of R. H. Macy and Lord and Taylor is not com- 
posed of chic women. Chic women don't give bridge parties. 
They don't go to the matinee. They aren't faced with that 
problem of what to wear to dinner when the men don't dress. 

The buyers knew all that. But the stores were rich and 
the public had money to spend. The advertising departments 
wanted glamour to pile on. They spent hundreds of thou- 
sands of dollars building the French legend. Not only 
dresses, but everything that a woman bought, used, wore, 
was supposedly designed in Paris. The department stores of 
the United States made an enormous capital investment in 
the names of the French couturiers. 

Lord and Taylor's and other Paris style bureaus died a 
natural death when the depression cut down spending. Long 
before that, I left it. I only stayed with Lord and Taylor four 
months, in fact. I saw that nobody had the faintest intention 
of letting me give my version of the current style in clothes. 
The stores weren't a bit embarrassed in 1927 by all having 
the same clothes to sell. They liked it. 

The stylist was flourishing. There was plenty of money 
to pay her. Everything in fashion was bigger and better and 
more French every hour. 

Main Bocher, then the Paris editor of Vogue, offered me 
a job on his magazine. 



94 



uttina, 



inning an 

a 



raping 
/ </ 




IT WAS April of 1928 when I was called to the Vogue office. 
With no hesitation at all, I declined the job. I told Mon- 
sieur Bocher that I had come to Paris to learn to design 
clothes, that I was ready to start. If I couldn't design clothes 
in Paris, I was going home to America. 

95 



Main Bocher was very sympathetic. Probably he was 
feeling the same way, since he very soon afterward started 
his own place and turned out to be a couturier himself. 

He said that if I was so bent on designing, he'd get me a 
job. He said he might be able to get me into Patou or Lanvin 
or Nicole Groult. The first two were among the famous. 
Nicole Groult, the sister of Poiret, had a little shop on a side 
street and did rather conservative, nice clothes. I decided I'd 
prefer Groult because she had such a small place that I might 
really be allowed to do some work. It seemed impossible to 
me that either Patou or Lanvin would ever let me cut up a 
piece of material. 

Nicole Groult was an eccentric-looking lady, about five 
feet five, with reddish hair and a face that had been painted 
by a good artist with a sense of humor. She was, I guess, 
about forty, and had had a very slim figure. She wore simple 
little silk dresses with a belt tied in her natural waistline. 
This was the height of eccentricity, since nobody had worn 
their belts above their hips for several years. 

Monsieur Bocher made an appointment for me to see 
Madame Groult. We talked a bit about nothing much except 
that I was determined to design and had nothing whatever to 
show her. Very quickly she said, "Come on in. I like young 
people." 

I was hired for 500 francs a month, about $20, just what 
I'd gotten in my first Paris job. I told her I didn't want any 
salary, just to be allowed to make about fifteen dresses with- 
out interference. She insisted on paying me something and 
I went to work. 

It was May, the latter part. She was just about to start 
on her new collection, which had to be finished for the buy- 
ers in July. I suppose she let me in because Main Bocher 
must have told her I knew Americans in Paris, and also be- 

96 



cause I had worked for Macy's and Lord and Taylor and 
the Maison Groult was not being very successful with Amer- 
icans. The clientele was mostly French. The clothes really 
didn't have enough detail to attract manufacturers. I think 
some new money had just been put in by a gentleman who 
hoped to build the house up. 

Every afternoon for the first couple of weeks we looked 
at collections of materials. We were Madame Groult, George, 
her assistant designer, and myself. Every designer in Paris 
was busy doing the same thing. The salesmen from Rodier 
and Bianchini and Ducharne, and all the fabric manufac- 
turers, large and small, came around with suitcases full of 
large samples. 

We looked through all of them and every time any of us 
liked anything we checked it. That meant that a piece of it 
was sent in on memorandum. This consummation devoutly 
to be wished by every designer does not as yet exist for the 
couturier in America. 

It means simply this: the fabric house sends you what- 
ever material you like in hopes that you may make a dress 
out of it. You, the designer, have a large room which be- 
comes filled with piles of every kind of stuff that pleases 
your fancy. You use whatever you like and return all the 
rest. 

If you are a big designer in Paris, Vionnet, Patou, Lan- 
vin, you not only can select what you want, but you tell the 
fabric manufacturer ahead of time what material you are 
going to want. The manufacturer then makes it and you use 
it, or not, just as you please after you see it. 

Nicole Groult was not in a position to dictate to the fabric 
manufacturers. It didn't matter much to me, or to her, I 
think. We selected hundreds of materials out of which we 
might make clothes. 

97 



When we had seen the fabric salesmen, the trimming 
people flooded in. We selected all the buttons and belts and 
buckles we liked and got samples of them to have on hand. 

Nicole Groult never worked before two-thirty. Neither 
did George. When we got to the designing, I used to go in the 
morning because nobody was around, and I could have the 
materials and models and mirrors to myself. 

George worked entirely from sketches. He was a good 
sketcher if not a particularly talented designer. He had 
rather theatrical ideas which looked more exciting on paper 
than in the flesh. Madame Groult could neither sketch nor cut 
as far as I was able to make out. She sometimes brought in 
very rough little pencil marks, which she explained to the 
fitter who seemed to get her ideas and make up what she 
wanted. 

Often I think she simply selected a bolt of material and 
told the fitter what she wanted without either rough sketch or 
draping. Perhaps George sketched for her sometimes. 

All over Paris in the month of June every dressmaking 
establishment was busy going through the same motions. I 
understand that Patou used to select his fabrics and tell the 
heads of his workrooms what line he wanted in the clothes 
for the season. The fitters would then retire and make mus- 
lins. Patou looked over the muslins, changed them, gave ex* 
act material and color, supervised fittings, and you had a 
Patou collection. 

The fitter, the premiere as she is called in France, is a 
most important person in any dressmaking establishment. 
Very often the French premiere is the actual designer, as in 
the case of Patou. Patou stood, I think, in the place of a 
stylist, but a functioning one, to his premieres. 

In Nicole Groult's the premieres had to decide for them- 
selves how to cut George's sketches and the ideas of Madame 

98 



Groult. I worked every known way that season, trying to find 
out how I best could develop my ideas. The method I after- 
ward took to is that used by Vionnet. 

Vionnet has a half-sized wooden mannequin on which 
she cuts patterns. Her premieres then make full-sized pat- 
terns from the small ones. I don't know whether or not Vion- 
net sketches. 

Many designers work entirely from sketches, leaving the 
whole decision of the final cut to the premiere. It is my belief 
that designers who work that way are limited by the imagina- 
tion of the premiere to such an extent that their designs often 
fail of complete fulfillment. 

There seems no reason why something as perfectly flat 
as a tailored suit should not be designed on paper. I do most 
tailored and sports clothes on paper. Also, if one knows cut- 
ting and is repeating and changing something already de- 
signed, it can be done on paper. But all new cuts and, I think, 
really new lines come out of the material. If a designer is 
blessed with a super-premiere all is well. If a designer is not 
so blessed, she herself had better know how to cut. 

There is, of course, still another method of designing. 
You take a bolt of material and a woman, and cut, pin and 
drape her into a finished dress. My impression is that few 
professional designers use the method. It is the method which 
the public wishes to think designers use. Few, if any, design- 
ers can afford to ruin yards and yards of expensive material. 
One must know before slashing into a bit of gold brocade at 
$20 a yard just how it is to be cut. To design by cutting on a 
person is the most wasteful thing in the world. Not once in 
a million does a dress come out exactly as planned in ad- 
vance. 

Even when one cuts muslin patterns and corrects them 
before cutting in the material, there are changes which often 

99 



necessitate throwing out half the dress. Also, inspirational 
draping usually leads to hacking up and cutting off-the- 
grain of the material. If material is not cut in accordance 
with the weave, it hangs in every direction and just won't 
go where you want it to. It pulls in here, hangs out there, 
and there is hell to pay. 

If a designer is working on theatrical clothes where only 
the effect matters and the dress doesn't have to stand up 
under close inspection, he can be as quickly inspirational 
as he likes. If he is working on some rare individual woman 
who will stand the long hours really necessary to draping a 
dress correctly on her figure, okay. 

In my experience most women want to know what they 
are going to get before they buy it, and they don't like to 
stand for fittings. The minute you have made a sketch you 
can just as well prepare the fittings in advance. I also find 
that everyone who does special designs for customers, sold 
from sketches, instinctively uses tried and true cuts for fear 
of getting into some unforeseen trouble in making the dress. 

In working out really new designs, the perfect subject 
is the hired mannequin. She is paid to stand up or sit down 
when she is told. She cannot open her mouth and disconcert 
you while you're finding out what the hell you are going to 
do with a neckline. She cannot suddenly decide that the 
chosen material is too stiff or too thick. 

At any rate, the order established by all the French 
couturiers is to give the idea, by word, sketch, or pattern 
to a premiere. The premiere then makes a complete pattern 
for the mannequin who is subsequently to show the finished 
dress. The designer sees the muslin, approves or changes. 
The garment is then cut in the final material. 

When a designer first decides what she is going to make, 
the fun, as you can see, only begins. The pattern may turn 

100 



out according to the original idea, the dress cut in the mate- 
rial may or may not. 

Madame Groult, George, and myself used to assemble 
about three every afternoon, so the premieres could bring 
in our newly cut dresses. Sometimes they looked swell. Other 
times they looked awful. 

George and I decided that Nicole never put any backs 
in her dresses. She thought up the outline and the front and 
forgot to discuss the back with the premiere. So usually the 
material just went around and covered up the nakedness 
under it. George and I took to attacking Madame Groult for 
having no backs. She was very pleasant about it all and 
paid very little attention. 

She tried to help us when we made something awful. 
Once I had three frights come out in a row. I probably 
looked as ill as I felt because she hastily told me to wait and 
see how I felt when I did fifteen bad dresses at once. 

The worst trouble George had was that he'd make very 
beautiful sketches on women nine feet high. When the dress 
was cut in normal proportion, it was all chopped into little 
fiddling bits. 

Madame Groult and I only had one set-to. It was on 
the matter of the waistline. Madame Groult had a way of 
taking dresses which looked wrong off the mannequin and 
putting them on herself. Madame Groult, as I have indi- 
cated, had been very thin but was now acquiring a small 
tummy. 

Waistlines were by way of indicating a return to normal 
in 1928. Groult had not only always worn normal waist- 
lines but had shown them in her collection. Her figure was 
getting to the point where the normal waistline was not as 
becoming as it had once been. 

I like normal waistlines. I started to put them on my 

101 



clothes. Madame Groult took to putting my normal-waisted 
dresses on herself and lowering the waistline. I took excep- 
tion to that. 

"But, Madame Groult," I argued, "You have had normal 
waistlines for years. Why do you want to stop now, when 
they are just about to come back into style?" 

"If everyone else is going to have them, why should I?" 
she snapped. "I'm sick of them." 

I think one of the things which determines the life of a 
dress designer is how much she designs for herself. If the 
designer cannot get objective about clothes, she is limited 
to a large extent in the duration of her success. Nicole Groult 
always designed for herself and sold it to what public she 
had. 

Schiaparelli has always, in my opinion, designed for 
herself. Vera Borea, of short-lived fame, designed for her- 
self. Vionnet probably never designed for herself in her life. 
She is the exact opposite of the Vionnet model type. She is 
short and plumpish. I wouldn't be surprised if Chanel, when 
she had her great success, was designing for herself. Chanel 
was obviously too intelligent a woman to continue that too 
long. Her designs, however, have never had their first great 
integrity since long waists went out and femininity came in. 

If a designer designs for herself, she has as big a success 
as there are people who are built like her and who feel just 
as she does about clothes. The minute she loses her figure, 
her designs are lost to the young people growing up. She may 
retain an ever aging clientele. Finally, they go other places 
in search of youth or they die. 

Through six weeks of pain and pleasure, the collections 
of the French designers evolved, Nicole Groult's with the 
rest. The only reason those collections get finished in July 
is for the benefit of the visiting buyer. 

102 



Years of work and miles of material are sewed up, ulti- 
mately to clothe the international private clientele of the 
Parisian couture. First the stores and manufacturers, the 
small dressmakers and the tourists of the world are let in to 
steal what they can, and buy what they can't steal. 

I don't believe there's ever been a real designer in France 
who gave a whoop in hell what any American or German or 
South American buyer thought of her clothes. The manager 
of that designer worries and makes the designer worry as best 
he may. 

Just how most of the designers react to pressure, I don't 
know, but Nicole Groult gave me one reaction. Her business 
may not have been large. Her bills may not even have been 
paid, but I am sure what she told me would have been the 
same if she had been Chanel herself. 

After the collection was finished and shown to the buy- 
ers, who didn't come in any number nor buy in quantity, I 
decided something should be done. I reviewed the situation 
and went to Madame Groult with a number of suggestions. 
She listened politely. The models were badly sewed up. They 
didn't fit the girls they were made on. The salespeople were 
phlegmatic. Nobody ever heard of her house. Why not do 
this and that, and she might have quite a good business. 

Madame Groult looked me quietly in the eye and said, 
"I have diamond bracelets up to here," indicating her elbow, 
"would I be any happier if I had them to my shoulder? I'm 
going to the Riviera tomorrow for a rest." 

The French designers have fun. They are intelligent, 
artistic, wide-awake people. They are trained to make beau- 
tiful clothes for beautiful women. They do it according to 
the old traditional methods of designing and dressmaking 
for a wealthy clientele. 

Long may they wave! 

103 




A T THIS point, I nearly died in the American hospital in 
r\ Paris. I'd been putting off having my tonsils out for 
months. The Groult collection finished and shown, Madame 
Groult gone off to the Riviera, I decided to take two days off 
and get into working condition. 

105 



I repaired to the hospital where a French gentleman who 
was not used to these operations and had never done one 
there before, cut a large piece out of my throat along with 
the tonsils. About three hours after the operation, I was chok- 
ing to death. I remember a flock of doctors rushed into the 
room, led by a rather excited nurse. After that, everything 
disappeared until such a time as the nurse thought well to tell 
me that I had almost bled to death but everything was okay 
now. 

When I left the hospital, a week after, I needed a rest 
and I wanted to think. I invited myself to visit the family of 
a French boy I'd known these many years in Paris. Presently, 
after going south from Paris for five hours or so, I arrived 
in Poitiers and was driven from there to his family house in 
Lussac-les-Chateaux. 

All I saw was a single long street with the inevitable stone 
and cement houses set tight to the curb on either side. Pene- 
trating a dark, narrow hall, stumbling through its fifty feet 
of passageway, I emerged into a bushy garden, an acre of it. 
There I spent two weeks reflecting. 

In July, 1925, I had arrived in France to discover the 
chic monde and learn how to design for it. By August 1928, 
my exploring was complete. I knew that, given the right 
set-up, I could design beautiful and expensive clothes for 
some kind of women. 

The chic European monde, alas, was not to my taste. It 
took me three years to find it out, but I finally knew, once and 
for all, that the life of the leisured European classes bored 
me. I hated to know what I was to do at every hour of every 
day. I didn't care for drinking cocktails in the right place 
after swimming at the right beach. Ascot was ridiculous with 
its flowered hats and lace dresses. 

No sense trying to design clothes in Paris for a group of 

106 



people whose lives were nothing to me, although everything 
was arranged there so that I could. I could, that is, with a 
little work and trouble, find my spot, as Vionnet had found 
hers and Molyneux his, and Schiaparelli and Marcel Rochas 
and Alix, still unheard of, were to find theirs. 

All the craftsmen of France were ready to make my 
buckles and buttons and sew up my designs, beautifully, 
carefully. All the fabric manufacturers of France would be 
only too pleased to make my materials. 

There was the rub. What could be found in America to 
equal the set-up which had kept the couturiers of Paris in 
business for generations, which was to see them through a 
world depression, which had made a legend of their art so 
that all women wanted it? 

The business of making expensive clothes to order has 
never been a really profitable one per se. By profitable, I 
mean steadily so. A couturier may make a great deal of 
money in prosperous times. At the first hint of a depression, 
he finds himself stuck with an enormous overhead and no 
sales. 

The French do have a way of saving in good times and 
can usually see themselves through a few years of depres- 
sion. Nevertheless, no one who has as expensive an establish- 
ment as the important Paris couturier, Chanel, Patou, Vion- 
net, could possibly survive a long depression without help. 

It must also be considered that a couturier is, at bottom, 
an artist. Artists have a well-earned reputation for being 
highly impractical, in a money sense. They would, the best 
of them, prefer to ply their art in peace and whether they 
make money or not is of secondary importance. 

Your couturier's art is so very fleeting, so entirely a thing 
of the minute, that it must be sold hot off the platter or it is 
worthless. I cannot design a very beautiful dress this year 

107 



which someone will suddenly discover ten years later and 
pay me a large sum of money to possess and hang on the 
wall. My whole success as a dress designer depends on my 
feeling this very minute what my clients are going to want 
tomorrow and providing it for them. The next day their lives 
may change and I must again provide exactly the right an- 
swer or they will leave me to starve. 

What arrangements had been made by man to preserve 
the French couturier through thick and thin, to continue so 
profitably, so unabatingly the great French tradition? For 
whom has it been worthwhile to keep the world believing that 
all beautiful clothes are designed in Paris and all the world 
wants them? 

For Mr. Rodier, and Mr. Bianchini, and a number of the 
richest gentlemen in France. They were born, perhaps, with 
a passion to make fabrics, a desire as great and unceasing 
as Vionnet's urge to make clothes. The results of their pas- 
sion can be counted in billions of francs. They developed not 
only their fabrics but have kept up the entire superstructure 
necessary to selling those fabrics to the whole world for a 
long period of time. 

The couturiers of France have help, in bad years and in 
good, from the fabric manufacturers. The French couturiers 
are virtually owned by the fabric manufacturers. Getting 
control, financially, of a dressmaking establishment is quite 
easy for a fabric manufacturer. Dressmakers, to all intents 
and purposes, are never paid by their private clients. Dress- 
makers need an enormous amount of credit from the manu- 
facturers from whom they buy. 

There is probably not a couturier in existence who could 
not be closed up by some fabric manufacturer if the manu- 
facturer just saw fit to collect what is owed him at the mo- 

108 



ment. The French fabric manufacturers don't care to close 
up the couturiers. On the contrary, they keep them going. 

The Paris couturiers are the display windows for French 
fabrics. For every good model of a given fabric designed and 
made by a top designer, the fabric house will sell many times 
the model's value in yardage. They sell the material not only 
through the designer's house but through the other houses 
who copy the model, in Paris, England, South America, the 
world. 

The French fabric manufacturer doesn't have to hire 
people to tell him what kind of fabrics to make. He works 
directly with the designers of clothes. He makes such and 
such for Vionnet, something else for Molyneux, another sort 
of thing for Schiaparelli. Of course, he keeps Vionnet in busi- 
ness. She may make money in her house one year, lose it the 
next, but as long as she retains her following of private, chic 
women, she will be kept going. 

And what if Vionnet makes a badish collection one 
year? She is kept going because everyone knows that any 
designer has an off season now and then. But let her make 
four bad collections in a row. Finis. Collect the bills. Good- 
bye Vionnet. Give the credit to a new one. Build her up. 

What does Vionnet get out of this? She gets a salary with 
leeway. What did Patou get? He got his gambling debts paid 
when he was very successful. There came a year when the 
rumor floated up to Paris from the Riviera that they'd let 
Patou be put in jail because he couldn't pay his gambling 
debts. The fabric manufacturers had gotten a bit weary of 
gambling, and anyway, Patou wasn't having such a success. 
Pull yourself together, Mr. Patou, or we'll collect your bills. 

Surely Captain Molyneux has all the credit he needs and 
to spare. What if he were not to pay his bills this year or 
even next? Think of the chic women wearing his clothes. 

109 



Rodier sells him some grey wool. Molyneux makes a suit of 
it. It's a success. Orders for the wool from England, orders 
from the United States. One can't even get the wool in that 
particular shade of grey. Why should Rodier care whether 
Captain Molyneux ever pays for the wool he used? Charge it 
up to advertising. Buy a new car, Captain Molyneux, but 
don't forget that if you should ever make enough bad suits 
in our wool, we'll collect. 

Do the designers worry about that? Why should they? 
They do what they want. They're artists. They want to de- 
sign beautiful clothes for beautiful women. Rodier and 
Bianchini and Ducharne, and all the fabric men in France 
are back of them. Life is a lovely thing, so long as you can 
turn out the designs. 

Paul Poiret turned out the designs once. He swept over 
Europe. He was the rage. He had everything he wanted. Fif- 
teen years later he was borrowing ten francs from old ac- 
quaintances in the Cafe de la Paix. He couldn't turn it out 
anymore. 

Well, Poiret had his fun, and Patou had his. Vionnet will 
be thrown out one day. But it's all a chance one is glad to 
take if one has an irresistible desire to dress people. How- 
ever, I realized in my garden in Lussac, that there wasn't any 
sense of Elizabeth Hawes taking a chance with the fabric 
manufacturers of France. 

There wasn't any sense because I didn't thoroughly un- 
derstand and sympathize with their primary clientele of chic 
Europeans. The whole French legend rested on a group of 
attractive females whom I had helped to publicize, had fol- 
lowed about England and the continent to some extent, but 
who seemed to me to be thoroughly boring people. 

Maybe only the French do know what's going to be chic 
next year. Possibly nobody else will ever know. What did I 

110 



care? The system of keeping the whole structure upright 
made me sick. 

Let them give the Duchess de X her clothes, if she hasn't 
the money to pay any more. Give them to Madame de Y and 
Madame R. In 1927 1 sat with four other people in Paris and 
we made a list of the ten supposedly best-dressed women. 
Some one of us knew that at least eight of them were dressed 
for little or nothing by some couturier. 

If La Duchess de X is dressed by Molyneux in a certain 
little print, all of those women who are trying like mad to be 
the Duchess de X will rush to Molyneux and probably buy 
the same dress. Who cares whether she pays? They pay. 
Rodier will give the silk for her dress, and Molyneux will 
make it for nothing. Mrs. R and Mrs. Y and Mrs. Z will 
come and get one, and so will Bergdorf Goodman, and Hattie 
Carnegie and Weinstock. They'll pay. 

Let the French be impolite to the foreign press. Let them 
invest in foreign fashion magazines if they choose. Let them 
keep their prices up. Let all French fashion and style be 
shrouded in mystery. Let them try to cater to American buy- 
ers and cheapen their designs for what they conceive to be 
the American taste. 

Let all the fashion reporters on earth feed on the great 
tradition of French dressmaking. Let them try to put it over 
for ever and ever on the public. Let all the advertising de- 
partments in the United States pretend that all the things 
they have for sale are French, that all women want them. 

It can't go on forever. The edges were cracking even in 
1928. I'd watched the manufacturers all come to Paris and 
buy the same clothes. I'd watched the made-to-order Ameri- 
can tourists buy them too. I saw Bergdorf Goodman and 
Hattie Carnegie take home those same models to copy ex- 
pensively. 

Ill 



Things were getting more and more confused. In New 
York in 1928, you could meet one lady in a Chanel she'd 
bought on the rue Cambon for $200. She could meet a lady 
who'd bought the same dress at Hattie Carnegie for $250. 
That lady could meet another lady who'd bought the same 
Chanel at Lord and Taylor for $59.50. And there were the 
other ladies who also bought the same Chanel, well, maybe 
not the same material, but the same design, for $19.75 or 
$10.50. 

And quite soon, although the original material for the 
dress came from Rodier and cost $6.50 a yard in France 
and $9.50 a yard in America, one began finding the very 
material right at B. Altman for $3.50 a yard. And in the 
wholesale trade it was to be had anywhere from $1.95 to 
$2.50. The American fabric manufacturers might not be 
able to create, but they certainly could copy. 

It was becoming futile for Bergdorf and Carnegie to 
spend thousands of dollars for French models to copy, made- 
to-order, for their customers in New York. Every manufac- 
turer could buy the same thing and make it in mass produc- 
tion. An expensive shop can't get $250 for the same shaped 
dress which can be reproduced for $25. Nobody is going to 
pay $6.50 for a material they can have copied for half the 
price. 

The American manufacturers, such as Weinstock, had 
been coming to Paris twice a year for a long enough time. 
The copyist and designers they brought with them were 
learning to design from looking at thousands of collections 
of French clothes. 

More important, they were learning just to look at the 
clothes and take bits of them. Out of the bits they designed 
things for life in America, things for thousands of women 

112 



who were not chic and never would be in the true sense of that 
term. 

More and more often, working with the American buy- 
ers, I heard the complaint, "This stuff is no good for us. Why 
don't they make some good afternoon dresses? Why don't 
they design more sport clothes? We can do better than that 
ourselves." 

While I was designing at Nicole Groult's, one Amos Par- 
rish arrived in Paris and called on me. Amos Parrish was 
one of the bigger promotion guys of the mad '20's. He heard 
of me through the New Yorker. While I was quietly follow- 
ing the chic life the New Yorker had risen to fame and made 
me a little famous in its wake. 

Perhaps he meant to offer me some sort of reporting job. I 
don't know because he was too bright to get to that point. He 
dug enough out of me to realize that I was going on designing 
clothes. After we had chattered for a while, he left me, say- 
ing, "Why don't you come home to America to design? 
America needs designers." The remark kept coming back 
into my mind as I cogitated in Lussac. 

One didn't need to be clairvoyant in France in 1928 to 
know that something was going to happen to the old French 
legend. It was still serving its purpose. The clothes were still 
selling. The fabrics were still selling. The French and all 
their mouthpieces were still insisting that all style and fash- 
ion were Parisian. 

But they were being overtaken by something more power- 
ful than their subtlest publicity. They were being overtaken 
by mass production. They did not design for mass produc- 
tion, or for mass consumption. They designed and produced 
for the world of chic. 

The French were doing themselves in by selling the man- 
ufacturers. They were undermining themselves with their 

113 



real clientele, the made-to-order lady, in foreign countries 
by allowing the snob element and a great deal of the beauty 
of their individual designs to disappear in mass production. 

I couldn't hope nor did I want to set up business under 
the old French system. It creaked. To an American it was 
anachronistic. There was something decayed about the whole 
of Paris. 

Paris was not gay. Paris was the saddest place on earth. 
The world of chic which had its base there was gay. The rest 
was grim beyond words. The men and women who worked 
for the chic monde were not gay. 

One Sunday afternoon's walk on the Champs Elysees, 
away from the world of chic, winding in and out among the 
mass of the people in their somber black holiday clothes, was 
enough to throw a seeing American mind into depression 
deeper than any we have yet survived. Those little old under- 
fed faces on six-year-old children were not a pleasant sight. 
Their parents had hands worn out with carefully sewing up 
beautiful clothes, painstakingly making fine metal buckles, 
carrying heavy trays of delicious food. 

Those parents are now upsetting the world of chic. 
They've decided they want vacations with pay, enough food 
for their children, central heating and baths. When you order 
a bolt of material from France in 1937, you never know 
whether you're going to get it. The patient weavers of Lyons 
have decided it is no longer going to be cheaper for the 
fabric manufacturers to keep them at their hand looms. They 
are going to be paid or the world of chic can go without its 
fine fabrics. 

It was all there to be seen in 1928, even that depression 
which has proved the instability of all legends. Hitler was 
planning right then to tell the Germans they didn't need 
French clothes or materials or anything which wasn't Ger- 

114 



man. Mussolini was already beginning to convince the 
Italians that they should be Italian. If the old Roman fabrics 
were good enough for Caesar, they are good enough for you. 

Various South American countries were getting into that 
economic jam which resulted in banning the export of their 
money. No more rich South American buyers for Paris. 
England was only a few years from the "Buy British" cam- 
paign. There are plenty of good clothes designers in London. 

It's lucky I didn't want to be a French designer. If I had, 
I'd be sitting in Paris today worrying over the facts of life. 
I'd be wondering, along with the rest of the couturiers, 
whether or not I shouldn't transplant myself to America, how 
soon Mr. Hitler would be sending a long range shot into my 
chic establishment. I'd be bothered over whether my chic 
world was not dwindling in numbers as well as in impor- 
tance. 

I would know, as all the world should know, that many 
many beautiful clothes are designed in the houses of the 
French couturiers. I might never have realized fully, what I 
suspected in 1928 and have since proved, that all women do 
not want and cannot use those clothes. 

I am very glad that my reflections in an acre of garden 
in the center of France made me decide to come home to New 
York. After my two weeks, I arose to my feet, returned to 
Paris by the first train, got rid of my apartment, packed up 
my clothes, and sailed back to America. 

I had simply concluded that, if the French could make 
clothes eminently suited to chic Europeans, there was every 
reason to suppose that beautiful clothes could and should be 
designed in the United States for whatever kind of woman 
lived there. Eight years of designing in the United States have 
taught me that it can be done, for a made-to-order clientele. I 
have learned why it is seldom done for the ready-made lady. 

115 



PART II 

BUY AMERICAN 

"All American women can have 
beautiful clothes." 



10 



Cf 



reat 




THERE is a clothing legend in the United States as well as 
in France. Ours is based on that old theme song, "All 
men are created free and equal" . . . they are entitled to 
"life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." 

The proudly American clothing boast is that all Ameri- 

119 



can women can have beautiful clothes. It goes along with the 
other legends such as that all boys can get to be President, all 
children get a good education, and everyone in the United 
States has "an American standard of living." 

The reason that all American women can, supposedly, 
have beautiful clothes is that we are the only country in the 
world which can produce garments in masses. Any woman 
in America can buy a Chanel dress for whatever amount she 
has to spend, from $3.75 to $375. Since the pursuit of 
French clothing is traditionally the pursuit of happiness in 
the feminine sex, all American women should be happy. 

Lest the American woman become too happy about the 
solution of her primary want, and rest quietly on the bene- 
fits of mass production, Fashion has taken unto himself the 
French legend and amplified it a trifle. He moved over here 
from France when he noticed that mass production was going 
to develop into big money. Formerly he had gotten on in a 
small way by making Marie Antoinette change the shape of 
her hat every day and just playing little jokes of that kind 
on the upper classes. Marie had her head chopped off and so 
couldn't use any more hats. 

Later that boor, Louis Philippe, ascended the throne and 
Fashion perceived that a new era was commencing. Upon due 
consideration, he came to the United States and was natural- 
ized. His original coat of arms said beneath it: "All beauti- 
ful clothes are designed in France and all women want 
them." To this he appended: "Beautiful clothes change reg- 
ularly every six months." 

Fashion did this because he saw that, if clothes could be 
gotten out by the thousand for very little money, something 
would have to be done to make women buy a lot of them or 
there would be no profit in the new arrangements. Whereas 
in the old days, Lucinda paid $175 for her black dress which 

120 



she then wore for ten years, now Mabel was supposedly going 
to be able to get a satisfactory black dress for $15.75. Mabel 
must be made to get ten black dresses instead of one. 

So Fashion, who had only lightly glossed over style in 
the nineteenth century, decided to make a super-human ef- 
fort to take it over entirely. He has so far succeeded that the 
word "style" is, practically speaking, out of fashion. 

Fashion was in control of nearly everything connected 
with women's clothing when I stepped off my boat from 
France in September, 1928. 1 neither knew or cared. 

New York was wonderful. The climate invigorated me so 
after Paris that doing four times as many things seemed only 
half as much trouble. Even the fact that I had to pay just as 
much rent for one room and a bath in Greenwich Village as 
I'd had to pay for an apartment and garden in Paris didn't 
discourage me. 

Cheap American food was disheartening, but there 
wasn't much time for eating it anyway. Bathtub gin after 
French wine was fortunately disagreeable enough to my 
palate to save me a good many headaches. 

I had to discover New York. I had never lived there. I'd 
shopped there and danced there and gone to the theatre there. 
I thought that I came from New York, but actually, I knew 
very little about it. Moreover, I had missed the inception of 
"prosperity." I assumed, as a good many other people did, 
that New York in 1928 was New York forever. 

Except for the superficial aspects of prosperity, perhaps 
it was. The set-up of the clothing business remains practically 
identical now as then. This was, of course, my chief pre- 
occupation. For whom and how was I to design clothes? 

To my knowledge there were no couturieres in existence, 
with the possible exception of Jessie Franklin Turner. She 
made tea gowns of her own design to order. Everyone else 

121 



sold copies of French models, made-to-order or ready-made 
according to your choice or pocketbook. 

I did not, in any case, return to New York with the faint- 
est idea of setting up my own business. Amos Parrish told me 
America needed designers and I assumed that I would find a 
place without much trouble. 

I had just shed the French Legend and my task was to 
prove its lack of validity. There seemed to be only two 
choices, one to go to Seventh Avenue and design for a whole- 
saler who would sell my clothes to stores, the other to find 
a place to design for a private clientele. 

The great American public, as always, divided itself into 
two groups, the made-to-order ladies and the ready-made 
ones. A more apt division in the United States would perhaps 
classify the women who buy clothes as expensive and inex- 
pensive customers. Many women here who could afford to 
have clothes made-to-order buy very expensive ready-made 
clothes. This is largely due, I believe, to the absence of real 
couturieres. It may be further due to the rush of life in Amer- 
ica and the resulting psychology of our women in reference 
to clothes. 

In any event, as I saw things in 1928, the made-to-order 
or expensive lady had her specialty shops, the ready-made 
or inexpensive lady her department stores. One big differ- 
ence between a specialty shop and a department store is that 
the former has carpets on the floor and the latter has none. 
The difference between a specialty shop and a couturier is 
that the couturier sells only his own designs and those only 
made-to-order. The specialty shop sells anybody's designs, 
either made-to-order or ready-made. The department store 
sells everyone's designs, ninety-nine percent ready-made, 
and always fairly inexpensive. 

Some department stores have made-to-order depart- 

122 



ments. These, in general, lose money and are maintained 
only for the advertising and prestige which the store gets 
from them. The greatest difference between a department 
store and the average American specialty shop is one of price 
first, and second, and far more important, Service. 

Whatever a specialty shop sells is comparatively expen- 
sive. This is because they sell real service and real service 
costs a lot in America. A good deal of what a woman buys in 
a specialty shop is not included in the purchases afterward 
delivered to her house. But it is balm for the soul and worth 
a good deal of money if you have it. 

First, when an expensive lady goes shopping for clothes, 
she buys space. She gets a place for her chauffeur to park 
nearby so she won't have to wait endlessly after her fitting 
for him to get the car from another block. Her specialty shop, 
if it is lucky, or thoughtful, places itself in a geographical 
location where she will not have to spend an hour getting 
through three blocks of traffic to the door. The made-to-order 
lady should not have to smoke seven cigarettes and tap her 
foot a thousand and fifty times while a half hour elapses be- 
tween 57th and 56th Street. She does not have to worry how 
high the taxi meter goes, but there are other considerations 
in avoiding traffic, like nervous indigestion. 

Next, when this lady arrives at the shop, she buys plenty 
of room to sit and look at the clothes which she may pur- 
chase. She buys a comfortable chair, and she buys service. 
She doesn't want or get just any salesperson, she gets the one 
she is used to, who understands her and her problems. 

She gets the unlimited time of this salesperson who will 
send an unlimited number of people out to shop for special 
colors and materials for her dresses. She gets special design- 
ing done for her if she wants it. She refuses to take the 

123 



sketches if she doesn't like them. It is all charged up to over- 
head and so, ultimately, to her. 

If she is a made-to-order expensive lady, she buys fit- 
tings, whatever number are necessary to make her clothes 
turn out to be her very own. While in the fitting room, she 
takes up the time of models who show her more clothes she 
may or may not buy. Sometimes she has a rip in a glove 
mended while she waits. 

Sometimes she has a drink of water, or a drink of Scotch. 
Often she asks for a cigarette while she passes an extra half 
hour talking to her salesperson until it's time to go to the 
next appointment. She is not hurried while she fixes her hair 
and puts on her make-up before she leisurely leaves. 

The made-to-order lady not only has an opportunity to 
buy her choice of style and fashion, she may also buy it at 
her convenience and comfortably. She pays for it, but seldom 
more than it is worth. 

What would the inexpensive ready-made lady not give 
to be able to settle into a quiet corner with an understanding 
salesperson and choose for herself just what she really wants 
and needs? But her fate is the nerve-racking business of 
squeezing herself into a five by eight fitting room to try on 
a lot of things she doesn't like anyway, and she knows on 
walking into a department store, that she can't get navy blue 
in the fall, which is enough to unsettle the most stable 
stomach. 

The department store offers services, too. They talk a 
good deal about them, that is. But what are they? Onto a 
$15.75 dress, the store does not add the price of an excellent 
salesperson, or even enough of an inferior grade to spend 
more than a few minutes to each customer. If there is one 
comfortable chair to every fifty department store customers, 

124 



that is a very high average. There are no cigarettes, few 
drinks of water, and no Scotch. 

All right, the ready-made lady can't pay for it, so that's 
that. I assumed, in 1928, that what came home to her in its 
package was exactly what she did pay for. 

In 1928, at specialty shops such as Hattie Carnegie and 
Thurn and Bergdorf Goodman, I saw service being given 
and paid for. I saw some beautiful clothes, all French mod- 
els. I saw good workmanship and good quality and that 
business was booming. Without asking, I felt quite sure they 
didn't need me. All their beautiful clothes had been designed 
in France and, apparently, all their customers wanted them. 
Their customers looked happy and satisfied. 

Getting jostled around in department stores, looking 
over the possible purchases of the ready-made lady, forced 
me to the conclusion that I just didn't understand the major- 
ity of the American public. Most of what I saw I wouldn't 
have worn at any price. It was bad in quality and cheated on 
cut. It was Vionnet's best model with a bow added to it for 
the purpose of attracting the American eye. It was junked 
up and tricked out and tawdry. 

It was anything but chic, and it lacked style. I was as- 
sured that it was fashionable because the ads said so and 
everyone was buying it. Anything new that enough people 
buy is fashionable in a world of mass production. 

I reflected on the two publics for which I might design 
and I concluded that, while I came from the middle class, I 
no longer had any affinity with them. If what I saw them 
wearing was the physical proof of America's fine and satis- 
factory mass production, then I and mass production were 
never going to get along. 

In addition to what I saw in the department stores, I had 
another fright about the wholesale clothing business. My 

125 



dealings with Weinstock were fresh in my mind. I had gazed 
upon the bosses of American mass production in Paris. I 
considered them a bunch of thieves. I had sold sketches to 
their designers to such an extent that they were merely copy- 
ists in my estimation. I could not be under the illusion that 
any manufacturer would want original designs. 

In any case, I had carefully trained myself to design in- 
dividual clothes to be made-to-order. Discussions with my 
friends, as I reviewed the American clothing field before 
entering it, confirmed my suspicions that, in spite of the 
services rendered them by specialty shops, there were a num- 
ber of women in New York who were not satisfied with copies 
of French models at any price. 

There were, and are, three psychological types of women 
who count in America as far as their clothing wants go. We 
have chic women, fashionable women, and stylish women 
here. In France there is only the chic woman to attend to. The 
rest don't count. 

In England there are chic women, as in France, and 
stylish women, like the Queen Mother. The fashionable 
woman flourishes in large numbers only in this land of mass- 
produced clothes. Whatever novelty is bought in large quan- 
tity is fashionable where large quantities can be turned out. 

Fashion worked fast and hard on the women of Amer- 
ica. By spending a great deal of money, he frightened a lot 
of them under his thumb. He taught a majority of them that 
they must try to be fashionable. 

There are many more would-be women of fashion in the 
United States than chic women or women of style. The fash- 
ionable woman in America has fallen hook, line, and sinker 
for the French Legend. She scans the news columns eagerly 
for word of what's new in Paris. She worries about whether, 
skirts will be shorter without reference to the shape of her 

126 



own legs. She is horrified if her coat is not the prescribed 
color and shape. 

She not only bows her head in prayer to Fashion's Leg- 
end, all beautiful clothes are designed in France, all women 
want them, and they change every six months, but she is the 
one who falls for the cellophane wrapper without examining 
the content. She bought all the idiotic Eugenie hats. She 
bought a slit skirt when full skirts were just on the verge of 
popping out all over the place. She didn't stop to think that, 
above every other reason for not owning one, she couldn't 
walk easily in a slit skirt. 

She is a large part of the middle class with some money 
to spend on clothes, and most of the nouveau riche with 
plenty of money to throw around. She tries to be chic and 
misses. Nobody ever told her about style. She's fashionable, 
God help her. 

I didn't feel so charitable toward her in 1928. I didn't 
realize it really wasn't her fault. I had yet to learn the rami- 
fications of the fashion business in America. The "fashion- 
able" American woman helped to scare me away from mass 
production. Even when she buys expensive clothes they are 
usually ready-made. You've seen her around in a black dress 
with a bit of white at the neck, two silver foxes and a fake or 
real diamond pin in her hat. 

She is doing her best to give a mass-produced imitation 
of French chic. Fashion has convinced her that without the 
leisurely life, without the money and the lady's maid, she 
can be chic. Fashion has convinced her, above all, that qual- 
ity and cut are not what matter, but his cellophane wrapper. 

There are, of course, a few really chic women who live 
in America. They belong, most of them, to the international 
group. They learned to be chic in Paris and they keep up the 
traditions wherever they go. But being chic not only takes a 

127 



great deal of money but an enormous amount of time. It 
practically precludes everything else, even being on charity 
committees. Half of one's time goes getting chic, the other 
half being seen that way. 

Even very rich American women are usually too oc- 
cupied to spend twenty-four hours a day at it. The endless 
number of fittings necessary to have your clothes really right 
and enough of them to be truly chic irks Americans. 

The hours consumed in getting just the right shoe to com- 
plete each costume and fitting, and returning and fitting it 
again, hours so pleasantly passed in Paris, seem an awful 
waste in New York. Someone always comes along as you are 
going to your fitting and says, "Let's go to the dog show," 
or, "How about a cocktail?" or, trying as hard as you can to 
be chic, you find that, just when you made your fitting ap- 
pointment, they decided to have a committee meeting for 
the Milk Fund. 

Even the stereotyped chic life doesn't function smoothly 
in the United States. The minute some smart hotel manager 
thinks he has got everybody coming to a certain resort, six 
of them decide it is all the bunk and go to Key West. You 
never know where expensive Americans are because they 
go wherever they like. 

You find them in Southampton and Newport and Palm 
Beach, yes. But you find just as many of them with just as 
good names quietly living along in Southport, Conn., 
Topeka, Kansas, Chicago, St. Paul, Omaha, Los Angeles, 
Mexico, Canada, France. 

The sons and daughters of the best families are apt to go 
swimming at Jones' Beach right alongside their servants. 
They may drive dilapidated Fords and wear old clothes with 
perfect aplomb. They drink their cocktails at the wrong bars 

128 



and live on the wrong side of the railroad tracks if they think 
its prettier there. 

They are descended from the pioneers and they like jazz. 
They may not be going anywhere in their high-powered cars, 
aeroplanes or speed boats, but no tradition of chic is going 
to tell them where they can't go. 

This curiously American, reckless disregard for doing 
"the right thing" has its visible side in clothes. There are 
a minimal number of American women, to be sure, who go 
their own way in the matter of covering their bodies. 

There are, however, many of them in New York, and 
more in Boston, a number of dowagers who make no preten- 
tious to chic and no compromise with fashion. They dress as 
they please, wear their hats on the tops of their heads if they 
like, use high collars when only low necks are being worn, 
and generally defy the demon Fashion with the best possible 
results. 

Their daughters were among those who insisted on wear- 
ing long full evening clothes when short tight ones were in 
fashion. They are now busy divesting themselves of their 
bathing suits and otherwise enjoying life according to their 
own dictates of comfort. 

All of this takes real character and is, in my opinion, the 
only way worth dressing. It can be done without going too 
far on the "art" side. It takes courage to defy the deformed 
thief. Only real people dare do it. 

It is the only way of enjoying clothes. It means you really 
and truly have the right thing to wear at the right time in the 
right place. Unfortunately, you must be a made-to-order lady 
to achieve this desirable end. You may, of course, make-to- 
order at home. 

You may make to-order by tearing off all the trimming 
fashion has added to your dress and, like many little girls 

129 



on Broadway in 1928, putting your belt up in your waistline 
and showing off your figure whether it is fashionable or not. 
You may just put your hat on the back of your head and 
show off your beautiful fresh young complexion whether 
Mrs. de Steele is doing it in Paris or not. 

Then you can have a good hearty laugh, two or three 
years later, when Mrs. de Steele takes up your natural waist 
and shoves her hat onto the back of her head with the worst 
possible results. By that time, you have probably decided 
that too many rehearsals at Roxy's are leaving their imprint 
and have put the brim of your hat down over your face so 
that only your pearly white teeth are left to attract an ad- 
miring audience. 

You can thank God that American men don't know any- 
thing about chic, because they just leave you to figure out 
your own methods of getting them down, regardless of fash- 
ion's dictates, or the whims of a French countess. You are 
creating your own style. 

We have an assortment of stylish women and girls in 
America and are developing more. I see them spread over 
the campuses of certain colleges. I see them flipping out of 
big buildings on Wall Street at five o'clock, tapping what- 
ever kind of heels they prefer down the subway stairs. 

I seldom see any of them in the movies, but I sometimes 
see them at the movies, having a good laugh at what stardom 
chooses to think certain people wear. I see them running up 
plain little dresses they can't buy, and I see them in my own 
shop, ignoring the French Legend. 

There are not many of them, a few in New York, a few 
in Chicago, a few in Dallas, a few in Boston. They are per- 
fectly sure of themselves and their position, their clothes 
and their friends. They are not often photographed or writ- 
ten about. 

130 



Some of them were nurtured in the French Legend and 
all other legends and so saw the futility of doing the right 
thing. Others of them never heard of any legend and don't 
know what the right thing is. Some of them are Rosie 
O'Grady and some the Colonel's Lady. 

All of them take what they want in the way of clothes, 
re-arrange it or have it made-to-order. Some of them have 
strong, sturdy shoulders, inherited from their Puritan an- 
cestors. Others have narrow, under-fed little shoulders, 
slightly bent from typing. Whatever their shape, if there is 
to be an American couture, whether it is produced in masses 
or one at a time, these are the women who will sustain it, 
nurture it, use it with pleasure, buy it with a laugh. 

They have style. 

In 1928, I only had encountered those women of style 
who had money to pay for it. I scarcely knew the rest existed 
after my sojourn in France. I saw no way of trying to design 
for any of them in any case. I felt that no specialty shop 
needed me and no wholesaler wanted me. 

I went to consult with Amos Parrish. He had told me to 
come home. He should be able to point out the first step for 
a designer if America needed them. When I first came from 
the disorder, dust, and leisure of Paris offices, to the sky- 
scrapers of New York, I was always struck dumb in my in- 
terviews. Amos Parrish had sat on a little chair in my messy 
cubbyhole chez Nicole Groult. We tipped ourselves back 
and talked about life. 

In New York, I went up dozens of floors to enter into the 
outside and inside waiting rooms of the vastness which was 
the American Fashion Business. I finally penetrated the 
empty squareness of Mr. Parrish's own secluded nook, an 
acre big, his office seemed, with a mammoth desk, quite bare, 

131 



of course, a chair behind it which didn't tip, another small 
one beside it for me. 

"I came home," I said, "To design clothes here." 

"What in the world makes you think American women 
want their clothes designed here?" asked Mr. Parrish. 

I gazed out of the window over the tops and into the tops 
of thousands of buildings which I began to believe were all 
filled with people asking the same question. Maybe it's all 
a mistake, I thought. Maybe all the women in America have 
beautiful clothes, designed by the French, miraculously and 
satisfactorily reproduced for them by the wholesalers. 

I withdrew to the smallness and dustiness of my one 
room apartment. 

I could not answer Mr. Amos Parrish. 

It's taken me nine years of very hard work, but now I can 
answer him. 



132 



// 



Ga 



iton 




IT is now, ladies and gentlemen, October, 1928. It is cold- 
ish and crisp and business is booming. We have before us 
a depression, a returning prosperity and through it all, some 
twenty billion dollars to spend, America's clothing budget 
for nearly a decade. This is how the story goes : Nobody, as 

133 



Amos Parrish suggested, really wanted a clothes designer 
who didn't believe in the French Legend. I was unemployed. 
I was broke. I decided I'd have to get some department store 
who hadn't already employed me in Paris to give me a salary 
for doing something, I didn't know what. I amassed a batch 
of letters from kind friends to various people in the selling 
end of clothes. 

One day I wandered into Scribner's to get a book. There 
I happened to meet Virginia Vanderlip. It was the Vander- 
lips who had motored me about in Italy. I roomed next to 
Narcissa at Vassar. Virginia inquired solicitously after my 
welfare. I told her I was having quite a bad time. She sug- 
gested that her cousin, Rosemary Harden, was interested in 
clothes and might like to have a shop. I said oh and pro- 
ceeded to an appointment at Stern Brothers, with Estelle 
Hamburger. 

Fortunately, Miss Hamburger was late. I sat in an outer 
office waiting. Finally I thought, what am I doing here any- 
way? I came home to design clothes. This is an advertising 
department. 

For the second time in three months. I arose to my feet 
and fled. The first time I fled from Lussac, France, to New 
York. The, second time I went to a telephone booth and 
called Rosemary Harden. 

My plans suddenly became very definite. If I could get 
her to start a business with me, I could design clothes. I was 
sure some people who could afford made-to-order clothes 
didn't want French models. We would have a place where 
they could get our models. 

Rosemary Harden was a debutante of the year before. 
She had good taste in clothes and some creative ability. She 
wanted to do something besides go to parties. Her father set 
us up in business. 

134 



It was my idea that if you started any kind of business, 
you should begin somewhere near where you hoped to end. 
In other words, if I wanted to make really good clothes to 
order, I would start out making good, and therefore expen- 
sive, clothes to order. If I started making inexpensive clothes, 
I thought probably I'd die making them. 

My only pattern for dressmaking was the French cou- 
ture. We proceeded to set up a pocket edition of a French, 
couturiere. 

Our shop, called Hawes-Harden, was on the fourth floor 
of 8 West 56th St. Some small dressmaker had just failed 
on the spot and we inherited a gray rug, light beige walls, 
four fitting rooms and a few workroom tables. Into the show- 
room came some furniture from the Hardens' attic, a fine 
carved cabinet with many little drawers for samples, some 
English tables and chairs, a very large red velvet couch. The 
room was about twenty-five by thirty-five feet, the street side 
all windows. 

The first fitting room was made into a model room. 
Clothes must be made and shown on live people, I had 
learned. We started with two very young girl models. One 
of them, a Cooper Union graduate, stayed for three years 
with me. She not only modelled but ran the entire stockroom, 
did all the ordering of materials, and all the sketching. Quite 
a girl, that. Now she designs children's clothes for a whole- 
sale house. 

The next two cubbyholes were reserved for fitting. The 
fourth ex-fitting room was the proud container of a frig- 
idaire, an electric tea kettle and a tea set. We served tea 
every afternoon, hot in winter, cold in summer. This was 
Mrs. Harden's idea and a life saver amid the endless flow of 
customers, needles and pins. 

135 



The back end of the floor was a workroom, about the size 
of the showroom with a space cut off for a stockroom. Here 
we subsequently lost money. 

Gaily we started out. We made the rounds of the French 
fabric houses all of whom maintain New York offices. It did 
not occur to me that anyone made material in the United 
States. We ordered what we liked for our first collection. 
Our credit was guaranteed by Mr. Harden. Little did I ap- 
preciate the boon. Only later was I brought to any realization 
of just what it meant. 

Our fitter was a dressmaker from Rutherford, a Rou- 
manian woman, big and strong and blond. She received, I 
think, about $75 a week. The drapers and finishers were 
hired by putting ads in the paper. All made-to-order work- 
rooms are set up in the same manner. The chief is the fitter 
who is responsible for the entire staff of her room and what 
they produce. Under her are drapers, girls who cut the orders 
from the muslin patterns which are made for the original 
design. These drapers cut and prepare the work for finishers 
who sew up the clothes. Each draper has from four to eight 
finishers depending on her ability to keep them busy. 

Rosemary and I each made models, working with the 
fitter as chez Nicole Groult. We had about forty things in the 
first collection which we showed on December 16, 1928. 1 re- 
member the date very well because that is my birthday. It 
was my twenty-fifth. I had made a sort of bet with myself, 
while fiddling about in Paris, that by my twenty-fifth birthday 
I'd get serious. 

I later learned that nobody ever opens a shop of that 
type except in the early fall. Expensive clothes sell much 
better in the fall since the women are going to be in town and 
must have their best clothes for being social. In the spring, 
everyone is thinking about going to the country. People use 

136 



a lot of inexpensive sport clothes. We do nearly two-thirds 
of our yearly Hawes business in the fall. 

Anyway, I didn't know much of anything in 1928 except 
that I wanted to design clothes and I was doing it. We had a 
cocktail party for friends and the press. My time in France 
had taught me the value of the press. I had not yet, however, 
learned about American press agents. We were our own 
press agents. 

Frank Crowninshield announced at our opening. He was 
a friend of Mr. Harden's. With him came Vogue. Harper's 
Bazaar was there because I knew someone on it. Other 
women's magazines were there for the same reason. Alice 
Hughes was brought by someone. Everyone was pleasant 
and gave us a boost. 

We were off . Rosemary and I did all the selling. We had 
an outside bookkeeper who came in once a week, checked the 
bills and kept up the books. I ran the check book. The two 
models did everything else except sweep the floor. That was 
done by the elevator man. We were a closely knit and not 
too inefficient organization on the whole. 

The fitter did her best to fit as I wanted her to. I think 
every young designer in America starts with the same prob- 
lem. Years later, when you are paying out hundreds of dol- 
lars for the best fitter you can hire at any price, you hear 
tales about how your clothes don't fit. 

My early fitters come particularly to mind because cer- 
tainly Hawes-Harden was set up with very definite princi- 
ples. The first was that we would design everything we sold 
and that it would be made-to-order of good material, well 
sewn, and well fitted. 

We had our troubles with those principles, since, for one 
thing, excellent fitters are hard to get and cost a great deal 
of money, how much I did not realize in the beginning. The 

137 



best fitters get a good hundred dollars a week all the year 
around and are well worth it. 

After you have your good fitter, she has to train a com- 
plete workroom as the standards of workmanship in New 
York are anything but high. It took, I should say, a full four 
years to be able to live up to my first principles in re work- 
manship. 

What I hoped to do in the shop, in selling my designs, 
was equally clear to me from the beginning. I wanted to 
thoroughly satisfy the desires of any number of people who 
turned out to like my way of designing. I did not intend to 
try and please a fashionable clientele who labored under 
the delusion that all clothes were designed in France. 

We were definitely not in a position to furnish all the 
service which expensive specialty shops like Bergdorf and 
Carnegie gave. We were limited in space, lodged on a 
crowded street. We did not have enough salespeople to go 
around. We committed every sin of omission possible in the 
beginning. 

We often found it advisable to send the proper flowers 
with evening clothes to placate the irate customer for being 
an hour late to dinner in her new Hawes-Harden dress. We 
kept people waiting hours for fittings, sometimes days. 

There was one and only one boast that Hawes-Harden 
could rightfully make. Nothing which was bought from us 
could be bought anywhere else at any price. It was not al- 
ways quite as well made and fitted as some of our competi- 
tors in made-to-order clothes, but it was really exclusive! 

This, as I had suspected, proved a sufficient inducement 
to a public wearied and sickened by copies of French mod- 
els. They came in to look, often remained to buy. 

When I showed my first collection in New York in 1928, 
the general opinion was that, if by any chance I could suc- 

138 



cessfully design clothes without going to France to copy, it 
was just a fluke. At first I argued, but eventually I was too 
busy making clothes to talk about it. 

Perhaps I deserved a reputation for eccentricity. I think 
not, but I laid the ground for it with my own hand. In the 
first collection in 1928, I showed a dress with a very long 
name. It was called "1929, perhaps 1930, surely." It was 
reminiscent of a Recamier model, high-waisted with a little 
top hugging the breasts, and a skirt long to the floor and 
straight in the front, sweeping out behind to make a short 
train. 

Most people smiled politely and appeared to attribute 
it all to youth and impudence. Skirts were just beginning to 
go down by dint of dipping in back or on the side. Waists 
were still around the hips. Yet almost anyone who'd been 
following style the last few years must have realized that 
the natural waist was already practically accepted, the long 
skirt the obvious desire of the women. They had come 
around to the point where freedom and masculinity were 
no longer one and the same thing in their minds. They had 
proven they could be free in the twenties with their straight, 
shapeless clothes and now they were ready to be feminine 
again. 

The catch was, of course, that although this was apparent 
in France where there were many designers working out 
their new ideas and trying them out slowly, in America there 
were practically no designers. And the American buyers 
were funny people. They always bought the new version of 
what they had already seen the season before. They never 
even looked at the really new things. 

Manufacturers and department stores are not in business 
to experiment. They are in business to make money. In the 
realm of clothes, they are very happy to have the French 

139 



couturier experiment. When the couturier has become cer- 
tain of what he is doing, when he puts out eighty percent of 
his collection with natural waistlines, then the stores buy 
them. Then the manufacturers see and buy them. Then the 
ready-made lady can have a version of them. 

The stupidity of it is that the manufacturers don't try to 
see, or are incapable of seeing, the seeds of what is to follow 
in each new collection of clothes. This is the reason that when 
whole collections of long skirts came out in France in 1930, 
the manufacturers were appalled. They let it be known that 
there had been a revolution in fashion, a spontaneous burst 
of long skirts in the midst of a short-skirted world. 

This was sheer nonsense. I had observed it all coming 
along in France in 1928 before I left Paris. I wasn't making 
any wild childish bet when I put in my "1930, surely" 
dress. The manufacturers, as a group, have about as little 
idea of what's going on in the world as two-year-old children. 
The French Legend had them by the neck in those days. It 
still has. 

Of course, if the entire population of the United States 
had believed Fashion's Legend in 1928, 1 never would have 
been able to get my business started. It was definitely the 
fashion to wear French clothes. Fortunately for me there are 
those women in America as in other countries who don't give 
a thought to fashion. 

If my life had depended on the fashionable woman in 
1928, I would have failed. Those of them who got into the 
shop by mistake used to raise their eyebrows and say to my 
anatomical clothes, fullish-skirted and natural-waisted al- 
most from the beginning, "Are these smart? I never saw 
anything like them." Then they would say, "Haven't you 
anyMolyneux's?" 

Sometimes a bunch of them would come in together, 

140 



rather drunk after lunch. They'd sit and insult the clothes 
until we just politely suggested that, if they didn't like the 
designs, there was really no use of wasting their time. 

Fortunately, it was all made up for by the people who 
began to get an affinity for Hawes clothes. Like every cou- 
turier, I only make my version of the current styles. I never 
expected to dress the entire population. A growing number 
of people discovered Hawes-Harden with cheers. 

Most of our original customers were people who had 
been used to buying clothes in Paris. They were in the proc- 
ess of giving it up. Everything they bought over there was 
copied and cheapened. They were looking for a couturier 
who didn't cater to the manufacturers and the department 
stores. They were looking for something which was origi- 
nal without being eccentric. They were looking for the right 
clothes for life in America. 

For every insult there was, thank Heaven, one of those 
lovely ladies who took a look and said, "Where have you 
been all my life?" 

The model of "1929, perhaps . . ." went to a young 
lady from Boston who has probably been wearing it ever 
since. I find I have quite good luck with Bostonians. They are 
the kind of people who do what they choose. Some of them 
choose to wear their hats on the tops of their heads, others 
wear no hats at all. Some of them wear tailored suits year in 
and year out. Others of them got into my full skirts the minute 
I put them out. 

Exactly where did those first customers come from? 
Sometimes I wonder myself. We had friends, both Rosemary 
Harden and myself and they did it all. They went about talk- 
ing us up. They brought their friends in for tea. We had 
cocktails about once a month and lots of young men came. 
They went out and talked very loud. 

141 



I'm not quite sure about talkative men and new clients 
for young dressmakers. It is said that Chanel got her start 
after the war by hiring all the ex-aviators to bring in the 
women. It sounds plausible. 

On the other hand, often when a man talks up a dress- 
maker, the lady to whom he speaks begins to concentrate en- 
tirely on what the dressmaker looks like and why the young 
man is talking her up, why he cares. I know of a few instances 
where ladies were talked out of coming to Hawes-Harden. 

Who talked some of them in, I can't imagine. I never 
knew, for instance, how Lynn Fontanne got into the shop. 
One day I came in from lunch and there sat an attractive lady 
talking to Rosemary about raising rabbits. She stayed on 
and on, even for tea. We were all in a nervous jitter because 
we weren't sure whether it was she. 

Finally she said, "I think I will bring Alfred to look at 
that dress." 

It was the beginning of a very nice experience in my life, 
and also a somewhat unfortunate one. I adored making 
clothes for Fontanne. She knew exactly what she wanted. She 
could wear anything she wanted to because she was so ab- 
solutely sure of herself. 

The unfortunate thing was that I made my first theatre 
clothes for her. It gave me a very false idea of stage people 
and clothes. I thought, after working with Lynn Fontanne, 
that when an actress dressed for a play, she dressed for the 
part in the play. 

I did "Meteor" for her and the first act dress was sup- 
posed to be definitely dull. I put myself out to make some- 
thing as banal in pink chiffon as ever walked out of a de- 
partment store for $29.50. It was what the girl in the play 
would have worn. It was what Fontanne wanted. It was right. 

142 



It had a short skirt although longer skirts were definitely 
coming in. 

Well, everyone raised hell with me for doing such a dull 
dress. I didn't mind that. What I did mind was that, later in 
life, I found out most actresses don't even try to dress for any 
part in any play. They just dress themselves as they like and 
if they turn out to feel like wearing velvet and fox fur in a 
camp in Alaska, you can make it or lose the order. I have 
lately mostly lost theatrical orders. It saves wear and tear 
on the nervous system. 

I might add, for those who don't know, that most theat- 
rical producers think doing stage clothes is good advertis- 
ing. They expect to get them for next to nothing. Usually they 
do and usually the clothes look that way. Even when they de- 
cide to pay, the producer, the director, the stage-manager, 
the author and the author's wife are liable to turn up and say 
all debutantes wear fox fur and velvet in the afternoon. 
When you insist that all good debutantes wear tweed suits 
most afternoons, they just look outraged. 

They've taught their public to think that debutantes wear 
fox furs, so there you are. As to the advertising value of a 
theatrical production, if one is making clothes for women 
of individuality, the last thing they want is to see one of their 
dresses on the stage from which it is sure to be copied for 
$19.75 at once. ._. 

The few actresses I now dress come to me mostly for 
clothes to use off the stage. This is less wearing. It only in- 
volves helping them to be themselves with no manager to 
step in and say, "All young girls wear white tulle." 

Rosemary and I never dressed any young girl in white 
tulle. We were not the ruffly type. We made bias satin to our 
hearts content, badly at first, better later. 

It was quite pally. Everyone knew me as "Babe" in those 

143 



days, and we were Babe and Rosie to our clientele. It threat- 
ened to become a little too cute at times. More and more 
people took to coming for tea. Rosemary often took pity on 
the errand girl and sent the family Rolls Royce to deliver the 
clothes. 

The Rolls Royce kicked back later. When I had to hire 
new girls for the workroom, I would ask, "How much have 
you been earning?" They would preface their answer with 
the question, "Are you the two girls who deliver clothes in a 
Rolls Royce?" 

We did $60,000 worth of business the first year and lost 
$10,000. 1 didn't know why at the time. Mr. Harden was the 
proverbial angel. It seemed to be more or less assumed that 
everyone lost money the first year they ran a business. When 
we ran out of money, we'd call up and ask for more. 

Then we'd run out into the showroom and take care of 
another customer. Some of them, like Fontanne, knew ex- 
actly what they wanted the minute they saw it. Others wanted 
to be told what they wanted. My sales technique is based on 
my idea that couturiers are not miracle-makers. 



144 



d 



Designers 
</ 



racle 



a/cers 




nr^HE job of being a couturier is perfectly simple to state, 
JL if not to achieve. The only attribute which a successful 
couturier has that could possibly be considered odd is his 
initial desire to make clothes at all. 

Given some curious childhood twist or background which 

145 



leads him to have a special feeling for the shapes of women's 
bodies, a desire to drape them, enhance their beauty accord- 
ing to his own ideas, the couturier quickly picks up a feeling 
for the hang of materials, a preoccupation with their colors. 

To these he must add the tools of his trade, the ability to 
sketch dresses or cut fabrics or both, a knowledge of how 
clothes are sewn up. If he can combine these with a partic- 
ular sensitivity to the Zeitgeist as it is to be expressed in 
clothes, he will be successful. Any dress designer must know 
and thoroughly understand his clientele and their lives. 
Otherwise he will fail to fulfill his function. 

His function as a couturier is to make really stylish 
clothes which are not eccentric but are in the spirit of the 
times. This is not complicated when one deals directly with 
the women who are going to wear one's designs. An important 
part of the designing is what one discovers while selling. 

The couturier must know ahead of time what his cus- 
tomers are going to want. He must prepare it for them, show 
it to them. If he has understood his clientele, they will im- 
mediately recognize the new clothes as what they have been 
wanting in a mute manner. They will buy them and wear 
them with pleasure for years. 

A good deal of the mystery surrounding the creation of 
new styles may be attributed, I think, to the French Legend. 
In connection with all designers being French and working 
in Paris, a vague idea has been built up that the couturier 
works in a mystic manner which the ordinary mortal could 
not hope to comprehend. Nonsense. 

The French couturiers and all couturiers are in the con- 
stant process of trying out new things, different lines. No 
couturier goes off into a trance and emerges with something 
brand new for the next season. 

What happens is very simple. You must allow that your 

146 



couturier has on hand one collection of clothes which has 
proven satisfactory to his clientele. This present collection 
contains sixty percent of things which are merely variations 
on clothes of the season before. It may even contain eighty 
percent of such clothes. The colors are different, the fabrics 
are different, but the lines are fundamentally the same. 

A close look at department store ads makes it obvious. 
Most of the time when you see four brand spanking new 
original French designs, you will perceive that three of them 
are that dress you bought last year with another belt. The 
fourth may look a little odd, a bit unusual. You examine it 
and decide whether or not you want something a little dif- 
ferent or whether you are not perfectly satisfied with a new 
version of last year's dress. 

It is the fourth and slightly different dress which occu- 
pies the special part of each couturier's collection given over 
to experimentation. For, while making up orders for cus- 
tomers, looking over new materials, traveling around the 
world, the couturier has come to the conclusion that, for in- 
stance, although skirts have been very tight, they have been 
that way long enough. Women must be ready to have full 
skirts, he says. 

He does not proceed to make an entire collection with 
full skirts. He puts in two or three and watches what happens 
to them. He finds Mrs. Brown, who is a really charming and 
intelligent lady of great style, buys one of those dresses. She 
wears it and reports that not only she likes it, but that she has 
received many compliments. 

At the same time, four other women order dresses with 
full skirts. Two of them weaken during the fittings. "My hips 
look too wide," they say. The fullness is taken out from the 
waist. 

"Well," says the couturier to himself, "I can't make all 

147 



the skirts full even next season but if four really stylish 
women out of a hundred liked them this time, then twenty 
will want them next time." He proceeds on the basis of trial 
and error to find out what the women are going to want and 
gives it to them. 

This is the routine and the rigmarole and the mystery 
through which the couturier goes in order to establish in 
his own mind what the style is going to be. It is not magic. 
It is work. 

The end is not reached with discovering that women want 
full skirts or high waists. It is not even approached. One must 
begin by clearly understanding the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the 
times, which is influencing clothes and architecture and paint- 
ing and politics. The first success of Chanel can clearly be 
seen to have depended entirely on her complete grasp of the 
Zeitgeist after the war. 

Prior to the world war, women had led the major part 
of their lives within their homes, chiefly in the capacity of 
housewives. Their social activity was definitely restricted 
and it was the rare woman who golfed, ran an automobile, 
engaged in what were considered masculine pursuits. 

During the war, a really large proportion of the female 
population got loose and declared for Freedom. They found 
that Freedom was incompatible with tight corsets and an 
emancipated few threw away their stays then and there. A 
large number of these women became very confused. They 
thought that to be free meant to be masculine. They tried to 
make their bodies masculine. First they took up very tight 
brassieres with which they bound their breasts and flattened 
them. 

They all began looking around for some kind of clothes 
to conceal their feminine curves. Chanel rose to international 
fame as the answer to a post-war woman's prayer. Chanel 

148 



epitomizes the most hideous period in women's dress. She 
understood the times and she responded. 

She gave these women little chemises to wear. She showed 
them how, by putting their belts around their hips, they 
would look straight like boys. They needn't be self-conscious 
about taking off their corsets. Neither they nor the clothes 
would have any shape. Carried away with the joy of it all, 
the women began cutting the hems off their skirts. They never 
stopped cutting until skirts reached their knees. 

No reasonable person could maintain that any one de- 
signer, or any hundred designers, could have decided all 
alone or in conclave to do away with the wasp waist, do away 
with the breast, do away with the hip, expose the unmen- 
tionable leg and be allowed to live. The lives and desires 
of the women underwent a fundamental change. Chanel hap- 
pened to show them the clothes for it and to enjoy designing 
those clothes. 

All very well for the old Lucille to say in the twenties, 
"The designers of today are nothing but creators of che- 
mises." Life was demanding chemises. Chanel was handing 
them out. First she probably handed out one. The second 
season, she made six. By the second year, the whole world 
was making them too. 

This is not magic. This is merely understanding, under- 
standing and trying it out. Trial and error, error and trial. 

Perhaps because I am so entirely convinced that no de- 
signer can function without direct contact with his clientele, 
I feel that the business of selling clothes should be based 
on as great a knowledge as possible of one's customers. 

I believe no reasonable woman should assume that any 
couturier can look at her and know instantly what sort of 
clothes she will wear with pleasure. The business of dressing 
people does not seem to me to consist merely in making your 

149 



customer buy a dress in which she looks well to an abstract 
eye in the fitting room. 

It's the beginning, but it isn't sufficient just to dress 
the outer woman. Carlyle says that clothes are "warm move- 
able houses in which we live." To dress satisfactorily, one 
must know how one wants to live in the house. This practi- 
cally involves a psychoanalysis of some customers. 

The process is something like this: 

Mrs. Jones comes in and says, "Dress me." 

We can see her plainly, but we don't know a single thing 
about Mrs. Jones. And the joke is that Mrs. Jones really tries 
not to tell us anything. 

"The suit I have on," she says, "is something I never 
really wear." 

That's lucky, we say to ourselves, because it certainly is 
unbecoming. Aloud we say, "Do you like suits?" 

"Sometimes," she answers and subsides. 

"Just what do you need?" we ask. 

"Oh, everything," she explains fully. 

Is she rich, is she poor, does she go out often or does she 
stay at home? 

"Suppose we look at the collection," we suggest, "then 
you can pick what you like and we will get an idea what 
you need." 

We look at the collection. A blue dress appears. We say, 
"That would be a becoming color for you." 

"I hate blue," she answers firmly, "but of course I will 
leave everything to you." 

"Perhaps this color red appeals to you?" 
"No, I absolutely never wear red. I also have a supersti- 
tious aversion to yellow. Then, as I say, I dislike blue in- 
tensely." 

A bias cut dress walks in. Mrs. Jones hastily draws out 
150 



a cigarette. "I'd better tell you at once," she says, "that I 
can't wear bias dresses. They always go in under my tail." 

She rises to let us inspect her tail. We can't find it any- 
where. She has none. "But, you are perfectly flat in the back," 
we exclaim. 

Mrs. Jones looks doubtful. "Perhaps I am, but I feel as 
if they go in under my tail." 

As a half hour and thirty dresses pass, we learn that Mrs. 
Jones doesn't like pleats, she likes to play bridge, she hates 
chiffon, she loves flared skirts, she is in despair because her 
old dressmaker has gone out of business, her son is seven- 
teen years old and goes to Hotchkiss. We learn almost every- 
thing about Mrs. Jones except the essential thing, what does 
she want to look like in her clothes? 

Does she fancy herself as a tall blonde, although she 
looks to us like a small brunette, or, more important, does her 
husband fancy her as a tall blonde? Does she go all girlish 
in the evening and love it, or is she haughty and bored at 
parties? 

"Do you want clothes to wear to the theatre?" we hazard. 

"Oh no. I never go to the theatre. We go out a great deal, 
though." 

"To nightclubs?" 

"No dinner mostly." 

Then I have tried asking the questions I want an answer 
to with the following results about ninety-nine times out of 
a hundred. 

"Mrs. Jones, look here. What I want to know is, when 
you are going to wear this evening dress, will you be trying 
to appear sophisticated and worldly or do you want to look 
like your son's sister?" 

"Heavens, Miss Hawes, how do I know? Some people 

151 



say I look like my son's sister and the other people think I 
look as if I were a vampire." 

"Well, what I want to know is, which do you prefer?" 

At this point Mrs. Jones is not trying to hold back. She 
doesn't know. She doesn't even know exactly where she will 
wear the dress. She doesn't know just what effect she will 
be trying to make in it. 

It isn't as if she didn't want to make an effect on some- 
one somewhere for some reason. She just has never taken 
time off to decide what kind of a person she either is or wants 
to appear to be. Therefore she misses half the fun of buying 
clothes and makes it just twice as difficult for her dressmaker 
and herself. 

If some lady came in to me (and sometimes they do) 
and said, "Look here, I'm forty-seven and I have grey hair 
and look rather severe and forbidding. It is essential to me 
that on Wednesday, March seventeenth, at eight o'clock, I 
look thirty-five and very very appealing. I will be in a mod- 
ern living room with dark gray walls and silver and white 
furniture. There will be yellow flowers. I am a perfect thirty- 
six except for my chest which is flat. My breasts droop a 
little and one of my hips is two inches bigger than the other. 
What shall we do?" Then I can whip out an answer in the 
guise of a few possible dresses. 

Naturally, most of the time the scene cannot be set, but 
the rest of it should be told at all times. The rest of it is 
rarely told and something else happens. If by some chance 
you or she picks the right dress the first time, then you've got 
a customer and over a few seasons you can then discover 
what she really needs. 

I do not mean that any good designer cannot look at 
any woman and say, "The line of this dress will be becom- 

152 



ing to your figure and this material and this color will make 
you look handsome." The trouble is, that is not enough. 

Fortunately some women have themselves all analyzed. 
It's a wonderful pleasure to watch them choose clothes, to 
help them out. If they see what they want, they recognize it 
immediately. If they don't see it, they give you the proper 
tipoff, "It would be that dress," pointing to a red velvet robe 
de style, "if it were taffeta and had a tight skirt." Right away 
you see that it is the beguiling neckline and the swish that 
will do the trick they have in mind. 

Other customers slowly give themselves away to you by 
odd remarks in fittings. "You know that green damask dress 
you made for me? I feel right in that dress." 

My goodness, you say to yourself, the girl likes romantic 
clothes even though she does wear her hair that way. The 
next time she comes in you say, "Why don't you try having 
your hair curled lower in the back and cut with bangs over 
the right eye?" 

It's rather fun but it takes an inordinate amount of time. 
Often, just as you have finally gotten someone into a mad 
hat by giving it to her and are all set to sell her some silly 
clothes the next time and make her find out that life is gay, 
she happens into another dressmaker and is gone like the 
wind. 

I suppose I evolved a lot of these ideas in Paris where 
time is not money and the French fabric people allow the 
couturiers to go right on making beautiful clothes as long 
as they are able to publicize fabrics. 

I thank God for the generosity of the Hardens in letting 
me get my start with all my theories in New York. They 
treated me to a year and quarter of dreams which I haven't 
forgotten. They gave me a chance to lay a base and prove 

153 



that a certain number of women wanted Hawes clothes sold 
to them according to my definitions of selling. 

In the early spring of 1930, I was rudely awakened to 
reality. Rosemary Harden decided tHat life held other things 
besides selling clothes and she was quite right. Perhaps she 
also had a vision into the future of trying to run an expensive 
clothing store through the depression. At any rate, she re- 
tired to be married and raise a family. 

I suddenly realized that the stock market had collapsed 
in the fall of 1929 and that now in 1930 I was in the red on 
the books. Perhaps if I hadn't had a fanatical desire to de- 
sign clothes, I would have retired myself. 

As it was, all I thought was that I'd gotten started and 
wasn't going to stop without a struggle. The ensuing struggle 
Was primarily centered, for four long years, on cash. 

The Hardens sold me Rosemary's half of the business 
for a dollar. For two months I couldn't find a dollar any- 
where. I thought I had covered the possibilities and con- 
cluded I was washed-up. In walked a friend, the first I saw 
after the awful realization came over me. I tried the new 
idea out on her. I wanted to say it aloud so it would become 
true. 

"I have to close up," I announced. I must have sounded 
and looked as I felt, horrible. 

"How much do you need?" she said. 

"I wouldn't dare go on unless I knew where I could find 
$10,000," I answered. I was still doing business with myth- 
ical calculations. 

The next day she called up and offered to underwrite 
me for what I wanted. I was so inspired, I sold five thousand 
dollars' worth of stock to someone else and that saw me 
through the next two years. 

Now, said I to me, I'd better really get serious. 

154 



' "Qjneo i^suarrea f 



rom 



ranee 




NINETEEN hundred thirty was a good year for me. I 
never get any more serious about business than I have 
to to keep it going. That was enough to break me down once 
or twice a year regularly from '31 to '36. 

As I look back on France, the most important thing I 

155 



learned there was to be in business for my health, at least 
theoretically. Beginning in 1930, I've had one if not two 
months' vacation every summer, and three or four weeks off 
in the winter. I have no diamond bracelets, and if I did, I'm 
sure my health would be no better. 

My first serious step, after Rosemary Harden left me 
and I found my $5,000, was to reorganize as Hawes Inc. 
I then spent a hundred dollars making the shop look like 
home. 

Willy Muschenheim, a modern architect steeped in Vien- 
nese lore, taught me about painting four walls in three or 
four colors. We had two shades of gray, white, and canary 
yellow. The ceiling was too low and Willy blotted it out with 
dark blue paint. 

Once a lady from Harper s Bazaar came into the shop 
and admired a wire fish bowl which Sandy Calder had given 
me. "It's no wonder you get on so well," said she, "you have 
so many clever friends." 

Quite right. Bob Josephy made me some aluminum 
tables with glass tops. We all went to Second Avenue and 
bought second-hand couches which we covered with blue 
like the ceiling. The chairs were wire soda-fountain models 
with blue cushions. Everything became bright and gay and 
present-day. 

I was off again. I electrified my creditors by writing 
them all notes to say the Hardens had left and that I would 
continue and they would all be paid some day. I thereupon 
discovered that the less you tell creditors about paying them, 
the better they like it. They prefer, in their hearts, to quietly 
trust in God where dressmakers are concerned. It would have 
been quite smart of me to have gone into bankruptcy and 
started clean. But I wasn't brought up to do that, or maybe 
it's just that money doesn't mean much to me. 

156 



My puritanical policies stood me in good stead later on, 
as the depression got worse. My creditors saw me through 
it at times when my best friends were entirely too broke. 

If my creditors had been paying more attention to me 
in 1930, they might have been more cautious. It seemed to 
me that I had about exhausted the channels leading to cus- 
tomers via friends. I wanted to tell everyone about Hawes 
clothes. I positively didn't have enough money to advertise, 
but I did. 

All the ads went into the New Yorker and they were fun. 
Regal and Leffingwell, the small agency I found to work 
through, told me, when I said I had written for the New 
Yorker, that I should write my own ads. 

I was terrified like trying out for a new job. It worked 
beautifully, probably because all the ads went into the 
widely read New Yorker. The copy carried the Hawes flavor 
well enough so that practically nobody came in from an 
ad who didn't buy if they had the price. 

The spring slid by. I went to Europe and bicycled in the 
Romanesque heart of France for a month in July. I made 
my collection and advertised it in the fall. At the end of 
1930, I had done $40,000 worth of business and broken 
even, paying myself and my fitter a hundred dollars a week 
salary, average wages to the rest of the staff and workroom. 

This taught me a very important lesson. It wasn't nec- 
essarily a question of constantly doing more and more vol- 
ume. I had paid myself $50 a week, done no advertising, and 
lost ten thousand on sixty thousand dollars' gross business 
the first year. 

The second year, I spent about $5,000 on ads, doubled 
my salary, had a more expensive fitter, and lost no money. 
We became efficient. 

The loss in sales was directly ascribable to the fact that 

157 



many of my first customers lost everything in the 1929 crash. 
The fact that I got by at all, I think, was largely due to pick- 
ing up a fair number of new customers by advertising, and 
hiring a fitter who understood my ideas to run the workroom. 

So I began 1931 well enough, but I still hadn't made 
much of a dent in the clothing world. People still said, "Of 
course you go to Paris every season for the openings," and 
infuriated me. I went into long endless explanations of how 
it wasn't necessary to see French clothes to design what 
American women wanted to wear. Everyone smiled know- 
ingly and seemed to insinuate that I probably had my private 
sources of French designs. 

At this moment the gods delivered into my hands what 
looked to me like the means of shouting very loud and clear, 
"Clothes are designed in America. All beautiful clothes 
are not designed in France. All women do not want French 
clothes." 

My motives were not in any sense to undermine the 
French. I loved them and their country and their food and 
their clothes. I wanted recognition in the United States for 
myself and for all designers. I wanted people to say, "The 
French design beautiful clothes and so do the English and 
the Americans and lots of other people." 

Along came a girl named Mary Bendelarie who was 
American and had gotten fame by designing and making 
shoes in Paris. She seems to have passed out of the picture 
but in those days she had an enormous amount of press. Un- 
fortunately, as I often observed to myself while looking over 
my own clippings, one can't eat them. I think that Bendelarie 
was a better press agent that she was manager. People liked 
and wore her shoes, so she must have been a good designer. 

She came to buy clothes. She remained to invite me to 
show my clothes when she gave her annual shoe show in 

158 



Paris. I was planning to go abroad anyway in June. It seemed 
like an amusing idea and a most excellent way of putting 
over my point that there were dress designers in New York. 

I am largely indebted to Eleanor Shaler for the Paris 
showing having come off. Shaler is a Hawes stockholder. 
She is an amazing girl who went to Vassar, danced in the 
Garrick Gaieties, sang in nightclubs, wrote a book, and, 
somewhere in among all that, worked in Will Hays' office. 
She acquired a remarkably good sense of press agenting in 
the course of her career. She taught me most of what I now 
understand about press agenting in America. 

Shaler said, "It's a wonderful idea. You must do it. And, 
I think, the time has come for you to have a press agent." 

I didn't know much what that meant, but one Selma 
Robinson had been sitting in the shop by the hour for weeks, 
looking longingly at Hawes clothes. She was a press agent, 
as I look back on her, one of the best I've ever met. She was 
pretty and black-haired and energetic. 

I hired her for a sum I could afford because she wanted 
Hawes clothes. Most of my early employees and stockholders 
elected themselves to Hawes Inc. Young women would just 
come in and sit until I finally said, "Why don't you sell," or 
design, or buy stock, or be my press agent, as the case 
might be. 

Selma was, of course, delighted with the Paris idea. She 
put out a few stories, had me interviewed once or twice, say- 
ing that I was going. Just then Bendelarie whipped away 
into the night and was gone. I think I got the idea that she 
wanted me to pay for the whole show. That had not been my 
first understanding. I was enraged. She left. 

I had publicly committed myself to showing clothes in 
Paris and Shaler and I felt that I must do it or make a liar 
of myself. There is nothing so undermining in the long run 

159 



as those press stories which constantly make the rounds and 
then turn out to have been sheer imagination. 

One afternoon Shaler brought Ruth Morris into the shop. 
Ruth is the sister of Bill Morris who heads up one of the 
largest theatrical agencies in the country. This means that 
he places and makes contracts for numerous stars of the 
stage and films and radio and is in touch with theatrical 
and nightclub people all over the world. 

Ruth and Shaler and I draped ourselves over the largest 
couch and discussed my predicament. How was I to show 
clothes in Paris? 

"Bill knows the man who owns Les Ambassadeurs in 
Paris," Ruth remarked. "Maybe he could arrange some- 
thing." 

So Bill, who scarcely knew me, sent a cable and arranged 
something, none of us knew just what. I was to present my- 
self in Paris to the manager of Les Ambassadeurs and finish 
the arranging. 

I got together a few clothes, took a boat, and turned up 
in Paris about the middle of June. Les Ambassadeurs, was, 
and probably still is, a very good and expensive tea place 
and nightclub situated in that strip of park which runs up 
between the Champs Elysees and the Avenue Gabriel, just 
above the Place de la Concorde in Paris. 

I repaired to the office of the manager, on the Champs 
Elysees. I went into the usual dark entrance hall and found 
one of those glass elevators which glide slowly, oh so very 
slowly, up slippery poles to Parisian offices. "Home again," 
I reflected. "Why did we ever think I could do anything here 
in a hurry?" 

I reckoned without the power of Bill Morris. He'd fixed 
everything as much as he could have. The owner was British 
(keep that in mind) and in London, and he'd evidently told 

160 



the manager to go ahead and put on my clothes as part of 
the floor show some afternoon and evening. 

The manager was French. He was large and fat and slow 
but he'd had his orders and I doubt if he thought much about 
it all, other than to recommend to me that we put on the show 
July Fourth. It seemed entirely appropriate. 

He introduced me to Eddie Lewis, a small dark Amer- 
ican youth who ran the floor shows for Les Ambassadeurs 
that summer. Poor Eddie! Little did he know what he was 
getting in for as we quickly agreed that I should get programs 
of the clothes printed, that we would show the clothes the 
afternoon of the Fourth at tea, although they didn't usually 
have any show then, and again during dinner at night. 

I had a little over two weeks before the Fourth. I decided 
to plant a few seeds in the press and leave for Geneva to 
rest and visit and get up my strength for the show. 

I had letters with me to a lot of press people in Paris 
and knew others. I decided one story in the Paris Herald 
would hold me until the week before the show. 

I therefore went to present my letter to the editor of 
the Herald, and, just in case I needed it, took along another 
to some friend of a friend in the advertising department. 

The editor received me. "I am going to show American 
designed clothes at Les Ambassadeurs on July Fourth," I 
said, and waited for him to jump. 

He was a large gentleman with watery blue eyes. He 
turned them slowly to me. "What do you expect us to do 
about that?" he asked me in a steely voice. 

I gathered my surprise together. "In America, before I 
left, people thought it was news," I said very clearly. 

He didn't say, "We are not in business to give out news." 
He did say with great finality, "We run a paper in Paris. We 

161 



would not care to do anything to which the French couture 
might object." 

"Oh," I observed, and retired hastily to present my let- 
ter to the advertising gentleman. It is always the letters you 
almost don't take along which arrange everything in the end. 

I burst in upon a small youngish American, one who 
had lived for years on the Herald in Paris and didn't take 
life or work too seriously. 

"Of course, I know the entire French press is bought," I 
explained, "but what the hell is going on here?" 

"Don't you have to do any advertising?" he asked, after 
he had taken me to the corner bar and supplied my troubles 
with a drink. 

"Well, I could put in an ad for models. How much will 
that cost?" I've forgotten what it cost. Maybe $15 for quite 
a large one. 

"And now," he said kindly, "you go home and write 
your story and I will see that it gets in. Send in the ad along 
with it. But for heaven's sake, get an angle they'll print." 

I went home and wrote out an ad for American girls to 
show clothes, July Fourth. Apply Hotel Plaza Athenee, June 
30. Then I wrote up my story. I'm rather proud of my angle, 
so I'll print it below, just as it appeared, slightly cut to be 
sure, in the Paris Herald the week before the show. 

MISS HAWES WILL DISPLAY MODELS 
OF AMERICAN WOMAN'S TASTE HERE 

With a view of showing French Miss Hawes, who has had thorough 

dressmakers what American women experience in designing clothes in 

want in the way of clothes, Miss Eliza- Paris, now has her own firm in New 

beth Hawes, New York dressmaker, York under the name of Hawes and 

will show a number of American de- Company, Inc. The dresses which 

signed dresses at the Ambassadeurs Miss Hawes will show at teatime and 

on Saturday. later during the dinner are not for 

162 



sale in France, and she has no idea 
of going into competition with the 
French couturiers. 

"I was invited to show a few of my 
dresses," said Miss Hawes, "and I 
thought it was an amusing idea at 
first. On second thought, I realized 
that the French dressmakers, who are 
always so anxious to know just how 
American women do dress in the 
United States, would be really inter- 
ested in seeing some American de- 
signs. There is no doubt but that the 
French have more idea of real 'chic* 
than any other country in the world. 

"In America, the women wear 
mostly adaptations of French styles," 
she continued, "not real French 
styles. It is difficult for a French de- 
signer to understand the sort of life 
we American women lead. American 
women demand a certain kind of aft- 
ernoon dress, and dresses which they 
wear at home in the evening, which 



never are used in Paris. The differ- 
ence between French and American 
style is not very great, but just 
enough to make many French de- 
signs useless for the United States. I 
do hope that any one in Paris who is 
interested in designing for American 
women will come and see the few 
models which I am showing. The col- 
lection includes everything from 
'breakfast in bed* to supper in that 
most American place, a speakeasy. 

"The French have a great tradition 
of many years behind their couture 
and as they come to understand more 
thoroughly the American scene, in 
its ever-changing phases, they will 
make clothes which are created to be 
worn in the United States." 

Miss Hawes was formerly a de- 
signer for Nicole Groult, in Paris. 
Her New York firm is at 8 West 56th 
Street. 



I placed an order for red-white-and-blue programs of 
Hawes clothes and went to Geneva. There I spent a week 
forgetting clothes under the aegis of the League of Nations. 
I returned to put on my show. I carried with me some letters 
from newspaper men in Geneva who thought it was all very 
funny, just as I did while I was in Geneva. They were ap- 
prising their colleagues in Paris that here was a news story. 

The week preceding my showing aux Ambassadeurs will 
always stand out in my mind as one of the most harassing of 
my life. I wrote a letter to Hawes Inc. the days before and 
after the show which more or less tells all in just the garbled 
form in which it happened. The letter was preserved in the 
archives and I reprint it with parenthetical inserts: 



163 



PLAZA ATHENEE 

25, AVENUE MONTAIGNE, PARIS 

JULY 3, (1931) 

Dear and priceless partners ... I shall begin the story of 
my life now . . . and after it is over, you may read about it 
in the papers. I doubt if I shall be alive to tell the tale. 

Before I left for Geneva, everything got set in one day, as 
I think I told you. Willy Morris must just own the place . . . 
that's what I thought. Ha ... it is not true at all! 

But if an artistic director called Eddie Lewis ever crosses 
your paths, remember, we owe it all to him. And call up Willy 
and tell him to raise his salary right away. Not because his ideas 
are so hot . . . but because I begin to think I owe it to him 
for keeping the ship on the rails. I may be speaking a bit too 
soon. This show may never come off tomorrow. I'm glad I have 
two ads to prove I meant to do it. 

Things have gone like this since Monday last (the day I got 
back to Paris from Geneva) : 

Went to the editor of the Paris Herald with a letter from an 
important person in Geneva. Editor was very snotty. I forgot 
to say that I had already seen Harold Smith and had begun to 
gather about my naivete. The Paris press, including the Amer- 
ican division, is to be bought. 

Well ... so I went with my letter from pal Vischer of Polo 
to the head of the advertising dept. who immediately took me 
to drink and lunch . . . and I had to put an ad for models 
anyway ... so he said to write what I wanted said and he'd 
see. The enclosed is the result of that. 

(The enclosed was the clipping from the Paris Herald.) 

Only my having gathered how bad things were saved us from 
not getting the show on at all. I think that you will agree that 
while my telephone conversation may be bad, I might get 
diplomatic one of these days. 

Well ... so I began to get models, each worse than the last. 

God ... if I could have hired a plane, I'd have had you 
all over here. But anyway, I have eight who are fairly present- 

164 



able . . . two divine ... or maybe three. It took nights and 
days to find them. I want sympathy. 

In the meantime (the week before the show) , I distributed 
my letters and saw people, endlessly. The A.P. has its story al- 
ready, with pictures. The New York Herald is coming . . . 
not going away over the Fourth, as so many are ! . . . and they 
have two other pictures. The next time we do this, I'll know 
more. I should have had a flock of them (pictures) . I am send- 
ing some rough sketches to the Herald, also. Luckily they 
wanted them rough. (This refers to the fact that I have never 
been a good sketcher.) 

I want this idea put across well . . . that the absence of ad- 
vance publicity is due to two things . . . 

1. I didn't want to spend more than a million dollars. 

2. Les Ambassadeurs wouldn't have put on the show at all. 
The boss who said it could be done went away. Perhaps it's 

just as well. By this time it would be called off if he could hear 
the mutters . . . but no one has the authority to call it off! So, 
they (the underlings who ran the nightclub) are shaking in 
their shoes at every breath they hear for fear the Paris cou- 
turiers will send them to hell for this. They pulled a nice one 
today and said we couldn't have any dressing rooms. Eddie 
and I will fix that, though. And the girls I have are really 
sweet. They've rallied around and helped and I really think 
they'd dress in the street if necessary. We did think of taxis . . . 
but an open corridor seems better. God. 

Well, now you see why I squashed the letters from Geneva, 
such nice letters . . . about making a row and getting fa- 
mous . . . I'd of been famous but dead. 

Maybe I can give a story to the press when I get home. You'd 
better start asking the ambassador about it. Maybe the French 
will never settle the debt now. Anyway, my bills will help a 
lot! 

Poor Bud . . . (Bud, Mary Robinson, was my chief assist- 
ant and a stockholder) ... I know how mad you were when 
you got a cable for all those dollars, but a girl can't start any- 
thing she doesn't finish . . . and Shaler can get to be a bigger 
stockholder, maybe! 

165 



I'm full of very bright ideas. Paris has gone completely 
French and if anyone thinks it's chic here, they're out of their 
heads. I know it isn't the season (for chic people to he in Paris) 
. . . but even so. I made an amusing discovery while looking 
through the social register that all the chic French countesses 
are American. Those who aren't had American mothers. Tell 
that to Selma. (Selma Robinson, the press agent.) . . . and 
tell her I see the future of fashion writing and if she can line 
up a couple or one smart girl, I'll help her be a big success. 
If we work a little, we can slit Paris right up the back in a few 
years. And that will be swell because then I'll never have to 
show clothes here again. 

What else? I haven't slept this week, and I have three new 
hats from Agnes, each madder than the last. Madame Groult 
will come, of course. I have May Wilson Preston and Pierre 
de Lanoux who is the French League of Nations representative 
for the press . . . and Groult ... at my table. I must explain 
that I sent the most polite letters to all the couturiers whom I 
like! And none of them will come, of course. But I am so 
amused at their notes. Schiaparelli really would come ... I 
know her . . . but she's going away for the weekend. Patou's 
publicity man was polite, called me twice before he got in touch 
with Patou . . . and never has spoken since ! Madeleine Vion- 
net sends me the very best wishes for success and regrets that 
she is making models and can't come ... of course. But hers 
was the nicest note. Some of them didn't answer at all. Worth 
said he'd come but I suppose he won't. Main Bocher who got 
me my first designing job regrets shortly. They're really busy 
as hell. (It was just before the summer openings.) I wish I 
thought they were scared. 

I think I must have asked 100 people for tea (personal invi- 
tations) , so I guess I'll have fifty . . . and I shall just go through 
them in a daze, I suppose. When I think that I have actually 
gotten nervous in New York! This is a great training ground. 
When you said, may God attend (that's what the firm cabled 
me the day before the show) you didn't half know how much 
I needed him on my side. 

I'm rattling around in the largest apartment in the Hotel 

166 



Plaza . . . for the minimum price of smallest room. I have 
two bedrooms, two baths, but only one salon. I shall doubtless 
have to pawn all the clothes to get out. I may be home almost 
as soon as this is ! But what has cost the most about the show are 
the models, mostly . . . tea will be more than I can imagine, 
ads and printing . . . and tips, dearie, tips. I sometimes think 
it must be cheaper to live in New York, after all. All prices are 
marked in plain figures. 

I gather Bendelarie hasn't come over yet. I guess she might 
be pretty mad if I get enough publicity out of this. Listen, I 
have to come home in the third class, although it did make me 
sick coming over . . . so if you think it's a very bad idea, cable 
me and I'll accept a gift from the firm. (I was paying my own 
traveling expenses out of my salary.) 

I encourage myself by thinking about the cost of one ad in 
the New Yorker! I think it would only cost about $125 for 
first class . . . and if I hadn't had to stay at the damn fancy 
hotel . . . but, no. Only the chasseurs (bellboys) have kept 
me alive. They wish I'd always live here. (I had to tip them 
so often.) The management finds me a little commercial . . . 
since they are getting gypped. 

About when I land ... I suppose I can face anything, so 
I'd better go through with getting stuck in the customs. (The 
press agent had figured out I could get stuck in the customs 
with the clothes, the officials thinking they were French. This 
idea was thrown out although it would have led to plenty of 
press, me proving my clothes were made in America.) 

If you think it isn't worthwhile, be sure to let me know . . . 
and my father. He has a guy who can get me through, you 
know. And maybe Johnny McClain (Ship's news reporter) will 
give me a break in the press when I land. But if he is going 
to, let me know about whether I should just slip into the first 
class to meet him and give him a rendezvous in the bar or some- 
thing. Just figure out what I'm to do when I land . . . and 
cable or write as the time is. I'll let you know when I'm sailing. 

I'm so sick of my favorite Paris at this point, I never want 
to see it again . . . 

Oh, about the movies. Richard de Rochemont is a lamb. (De 

167 



Rochemont was Shaler's cousin, head, I think, of the Fox news- 
reel in Paris. I had a letter for him, needless to state.) But they 
really want them so he didn't have to pull anything. It rained 
today so we couldn't take them, but we do it next Tuesday at 
ten A.M. for France and America. We'll have to get right to 
work not to have them cut the film when it lands. I'll speak to 
De Rochemont about whom to see. The French man (in the 
Fox newsreel) is a riot. He thinks mannequins are only good 
when they are fancy. I'll probably have to get a whole new 
set for them. One damn thing after another. I ... oh well. 
My luck is phenomenal . . . and we may make a million dol- 
lars yet if you'll only turn into sharp business women. 

For God's sake don't ever let anyone plan any publicity stunt 
again which has to be managed solo. 

I will finish this letter in my right mind, for better or for 
worse . . . day after tomorrow. 

July Sixth 

First off . . . they turned away dozens of people in the aft- 
ernoon. There wasn't enough food to go around for tea. The 
place was absolutely packed. 

The audience was a great melange of social and press and 
curious Americans. My models were simply swell. Everything 
went perfectly. There wasn't a hitch. They called for me at the 
end. I looked fine. 

The girls (models) simply went right through all the fuss 
about dressing rooms and what not as if the reputation of our 
great country depended on it. I enclose the one French write-up 
I was able to get by drag. 

(Pierre de Lanoux brought Jean Prevost. I put a translation of 
his piece below. The reason my name is not mentioned is because 
he could not do that without the paper being paid.) 



168 



UAmbassade De La Grace 

MODES 

d'Amerique 



Yesterday, in Paris, an American 
couturiere presented her collection 
for the next season. Although the 
idea seems daring, no impudence nor 
even assurance underlined its audac- 
ity. The young couturiere herself was 
trembling, and the numbers shook in 
the hands of the mannequins. 

If the styles are a good deal in- 
spired by Europe, and more than one 
costume bears a French name, the 
collection has, nevertheless, a distinct 
personality. There is something in 
these creations which is almost too 
intelligent, too wilful. Every inten- 
tion is easily perceptible. 

No bad taste, however! If the trans- 
parent negligee for breakfast in bed 
reminds one a little of the chaste 
provocations of American movies, a 
velours motoring coat with very sim- 
ple lapels has nothing more extreme 
about it than a very beautiful cut, 
and gives, one scarcely knows why, 
the impression of a fifteenth century 
costume. The chief interest of "Ma- 
dame Shops" lies in a double-breasted 
collar of fur, like a fencing pad, on 
the front of the coat, which by its 
lively and almost savage charm em- 
phasizes the complete correctness of 
the whole ensemble. 

The Sunday-night dress, one of the 
most striking, owes all its charm to 
the parallel stripes which, since the 
dress is very tightly fitted, accentu- 
ate the outline of the hips as do the 
long shaded strokes in beautiful Ital- 
ian drawings. 

Most of the thought and the few 
eccentricities used by this young 



American couturiere have been ap- 
plied to the backs. Thus, for "din- 
ner, no theatre," an open tuxedo 
waistcoat effect, faced in shrimp color, 
has been used for the design of the 
lowcut back. 

Another dress entitled "Debu- 
tante," (in anglicized French and al- 
luding to the London Court), has a 
sort of odd little vest encircling the 
waist and buttoning in the back, re- 
minding us of the famous waistcoat 
of the Saint-Simonian period which 
likewise was buttoned from behind 
to symbolize the fraternal assistance 
due to one man from another. 

Considering their titles, I expect 
wonders from the last numbers which 
are: the "Par dela le bien et le mal" 
(Beyond Good and Evil) and "Speak- 
easy" (Clandestine cabaret). The 
dress, "Coq de roche" (coxcomb) in 
color, is semi-tailored in front with 
wide, heavy draping in the back to 
suggest the wings of the accursed 
archangel. 

There is the America of next Fall, 
but the America of yesterday and 
today still dances about us. An Amer- 
ican in belted jacket, resembling the 
renowned Mr. Taft, dances with a 
stout befeathered lady in the mode of 
1900. A Negro tosses himself about 
with his two clattering rattles to in- 
cite the rhythm of a Cuban dance. 
Magnificent Argentine singers intone 
with triumphant voice : "Morir quisaz 
de desesperanza" (To die perhaps of 
despair) . 

Here, in the dance as in Fashion, 
the American style is all antithesis. 
JEAN PREVOST 

169 



(Back to my letter) : 

... I had several offers (from French papers) at 1,000 
francs per write-up, which I declined. Here is a list of the press 
whom I know were there: Tell Selma if she gets English (Brit- 
ish) clippings to put in an order: 

Ruby Baxter . . . Daily Telegraph 

Christine Diemer . . . Variety . . . gets a special story this 

afternoon. 

Mr. Dalmau . . . Havana paper 
Elene Foster . . . Spur, Christian Science Monitor 
Rosette Hargrave . . . N.E.A. took a lot of pictures including 

one of me, have Selma check up with Blanchard when they 

come through and try to get a set. 

Adelaide Kerr . . . A.P. . . . has a long story and pictures. 
Bee Mathieu . . . New Yorker 
Constance Miller . . . Ladies Home Journal 
Dora Miller . . . N. Y. Herald Trib. has pictures and sketches 
Perkins . . . Fairchilds . . . promises to also send cable 

when I sail 

Dorothy Stote . . . Phil. Pub. Ledger 
Baron Wrangle . . . Hearst . . . very impressed 
MegVillars . . . Graphic 

. . . Those are the only ones I am sure were there . . . but 
that gives us two big syndicate stories (A.P. and N.E.A.) and 
some small write-ups, I suppose. Really it was considered a 
huge success by everybody. I'm sore as hell their reputations 
here depend on their keeping in with the French couturiers . . . 
so I don't suppose they'll cheer about the independence of the 
American couture too much. A woman just called up to con- 
gratulate me ... whom I used to know. ... I don't know 
what's going to happen in New York . . . but in Paris I'm 
famous, all right. 

... I wish to heaven you'd all been here . . . not only to 
help . . . but also to see. I begin to consider myself quite com- 
petent to have pulled it off. All credit to you, Miss Eleanor 
Shaler, for arranging the whole thing, movies included. After 
all, I haven't my bills yet but I figure the cost of one New 

170 



Former ad is going to cover us nicely . . and that's pretty slick. 
I wish I could have done it for really nothing . . . but there 
was tea for so many . . . and eight models ... so as not to 
have any hitches. 

... In the evening there were lots of very grand people. 
You can read who in Town and Country when it comes out. 
I think it was all very worthwhile . . . except my getting into 
such a state of weariness, I haven't relaxed yet. I have an idea 
about next spring . . . we'll begin to send a group of models 
to the races . . . never done in U.S.A. . . . good couturiere 
kind of publicity. Will make a swell story if we plant it right. 
(The department stores beat me to that bright thought.) 

... I can't wait to see what pops in New York . . . but 
I'll have to. It's worth a good deal to get the stuff into Town 
and Country. I do hope you're both (Bud and Miss Shaler, my 
two stockholders) satisfied with me. By the time I get home, if 
you aren't, I'll be able to bear being told. Please be sure to tell 
Willy Morris about Eddie Lewis . . . and that Noble Sissle, 
orchestra leader, is one of God's gentlemen. He is dark in color 
and says he'll send his wife to us to dress. Just three Americans 
helping one another . . . Lewis, Sissle, and me. Lovely group 
we made. (Every time something went wrong, no dressing 
rooms, no rehearsal, the two gentlemen would take me firmly 
by the arm, sit me at a table and say "We're Americans. We'll 
see you through!") . . . Madame Groult came . . . compli- 
ments. Molyneux's publicity gal was stupefied with the swell- 
ness of it all. 

... Of course none of the couturiers came, but I have their 
lovely batch of letters . . . Maybe Selma can have a bright 
idea about what to do with them. 

Another thing is ... tell Selma to make a list of any stories 
she wants me to write . . . and try hard if I'm going to have 
to do radio or anything public to make it for September, for I 
must have a little peace to do the collection. The blue dress 
is lousy . . . bad color ... I did not show it. 

The pink and brown is divine ... as is the black striped 
chiffon . . . my congratulations, Bud. (She designed that one.) 
The corduroy things are swell, I think. Plum suit, fair. I could 

171 



have done something to it in the process if I'd been there. Any- 
way ... I like the one thing the Herald said about the clothes, 
that they are simple. And I like the Intransigeant saying good 
taste . . . classic . . . and, by the way, I was certainly not 
trembling as per Mon. Prevost. I was only in a slight rage be- 
cause they mixed everything about my tables and guests all up, 
of course. 

I think some New York paper should be amused to print a 
translation of the Intran story . . . run July 5 ... and not 
bought. Since I started writing this, I have seen some pictures 
of the show and one will be printed in Paris Midi. 

. . . Wearily yours . . . but they say it was a success so 
who cares, 

LISA 

I was undoubtedly trembling with something more than 
rage on the historic afternoon, July fourth, 1931. The girls 
ultimately dressed on a balcony which overlooked the main 
floor and on which eight spot-light men were working. 

This means more if you realize that the French man- 
nequin is usually a kept lady and gets no great respect from 
anyone. My models were all nice young American girls who 
showed the clothes out of the goodness of their hearts. 

One of the things I knew before the show started was 
that the models were going to have to endure having their 
tails pinched by every passing waiter and a good deal of 
lighthearted if quite vulgar banter from the lighting men. 
I fully expected some model to let out a piercing scream and 
flee before she ever appeared on the floor. 

I also knew the management just hadn't been able to find 
time for a rehearsal. Before the show began, I looked down 
the long, long polished dance floor. The tables ten deep on the 
sides, were crowded with people, chattering, amused. I was 
not amused. 

Away at the end of that long floor all I saw were eight 01 

172 



ten very shallow, steep, polished steps, leading up to the 
platform where the Noble Sissle and his orchestra played. 
Down those steps my valiant models had to walk, slowly, 
gracefully and unrehearsed. 

Slowly, finally, they came. Noble Sissle was doing his 
promised part, timing his music to their un-rehearsed 
rhythm. Down came my innocent brown corduroy suit with 
its turtle-necked angora pull-over. Along came "Madame 
Shops," the plum suit to which I would have added some- 
thing if I had been home when it was made. 

"Lydia Pinkham," the breakfast in bed number, a red 
flannel jacket with batiste ruffled panties glossed over by its 
batiste ruffled petticoat, gave the audience a good hearty 
laugh. I felt better. 

The clothes were on the whole too simple, too undra- 
matic, to be shown in a nightclub. There were a few boos and 
hisses from time to time, answered by cheers from the patri- 
otic visiting American. 

I had no sable trimmed wraps for the models to drag be- 
hind them, no glittering lame to glaze the public's eyes. 
There was "Picasso," my first dress in three colors, red, 
white and blue, slim, straight, and anatomical. Nobody no- 
ticed it much, I think. It was one of my best-selling evening 
dresses for the next three years in New York. 

Jean Prevost saw "Liebestraum," the Sunday night 
dress, with its parallel stripes of double and single chiffon 
clinging to the hips of the model. "One of the most outstand- 
ing," he thought, and so did Hawes customers for another 
two years. 

The last model made her last unrehearsed turn in the 
last and twentieth dress. It all took about twenty minutes. 
The audience clapped, nicely, warmly. I took my bow. I 

173 



said, "Thank you. It's nice you could come. Thank you, it 
was fun. Thank you, yes, we're doing it again tonight." 

Again tonight, to a smaller and more select audience of 
gala-clad nightclubbers. More sophisticated, they were, less 
amused and more polite. Thank you and thank you and good- 
night. . . "I don't know what's going to happen in New 
York but in Paris I'm famous, all right." 

The morning after, I was less happy. "Nobody really 
saw the clothes," I thought. "I didn't really get much press," 
I sighed. In my efforts to bide by the instincts of self-pres- 
ervation, I had not gone out of my way for news reporters. 
Anyway, I wasn't trying to create an international scandal. 

Had I done right, had I done wrong, had I done noth- 
ing? I slept for twenty-four hours. 

The movies capped the climax. De Rochemont wanted to 
take them out of Paris the following Tuesday because he 
couldn't get any sound but auto horns in town on the edge 
of the Champs Elysees. Some of the models had had enough 
and refused to take any further part. I collected a few new 
ones, including a red-headed French girl who'd been brought 
to the show by the father of a friend. 

We went out to the suburbs of Paris to a garden and spent 
hours and hours having the models make sounds. Most of 
the hours were spent teaching the red-haired girl from Mar- 
seilles to say "I yam f rm Bwokleen." 

When it was all over and they'd run out of film I asked 
De Rochemont if I could see it run off before I left Paris. He 
looked a little embarrassed. 

"Oh, we aren't going to release it in France after all," 
he said. "We'll just send it over to America to be developed." 

My first wave of anti-French feeling came over me. I got 
rheumatism in the back of my neck and a bad attack of hay 
fever. I hardly dared go home because I'd been expected to 

174 



do the whole show for nothing and it cost me all of $300. 1 
could cry when I think of that now. But it gives an excellent 
idea of the shoe string upon which one American designer 
rose to fame. 

Just at that moment, I was more concerned with what a 
bad job I felt I'd done than anything else. I was sure Selma 
Robinson, my press agent, and Shaler were sitting in New 
York agreeing that another New Yorker ad would have been 
worth six trips like this one to Paris. Fatigue had reduced me 
to a point beyond rationality. 

I returned to New York on the Berengaria and Selma got 
on at Quarantine with the ships' news reporters. She was very 
brisk and pally with them. I was escorted to the top deck to 
have my picture taken. Then we invited the reporters to come 
to my cabin for a drink. Bringing whiskey for reporters dur- 
ing prohibition was routine and didn't escape even a novice 
like me. 

On the way down to the cabin Selma asked me why I 
hadn't gotten more press. At that moment I would have been 
happy to throw her over-board. 

"I got an A.P. story and one from N.E.A., and Variety, 
and some odd bits," I said, "and Town and Country.' 99 

"I haven't seen any of them," she muttered darkly, "but 
anyway, there was a note in Walter Winchell's column yes- 
terday saying 'Ships' news reporters look out for Elizabeth 
Hawes'." 

And they swept into my cabin to look out for me. They 
said, "So what is it all about?" I said, "I showed my own 
American-designed clothes in Paris." They said, "Come on. 
There's more to it than that." I kept on saying wasn't that 
enough. After all I'd never done anything so difficult in my 
life. If I'd been French and come to America to undermine 
the U. S. Steel, I couldn't have had a colder reception. They 

175 



drank a lot of Scotch and relaxed and insinuated that I had 
married the Prince of Wales and was just holding out on 
them. 

Anyway they all had pictures and gave their own short 
versions of my story, very short versions, but the pictures 
with their captions, from the conservative New York Times 
with its "Shows U. S. Gowns in Paris" through the Daily 
News with something about "Reverse English" down to Mr. 
Hearst's "She's Barred From France," the pictures went out 
over the wires and there I was on the map. 

In spite of not being news to the Paris Herald, in spite 
of so many fashion writers in Paris being hired strictly to re- 
port French clothes, in spite of that horrible week of rushing 
from place to place and trying to do it all single-handed, the 
United States had been apprised of the fact that an Amer- 
ican girl named Hawes had shown American Designs in 
Paris. They had been apprised because of press-agentry, of 
course. The ships' news reporters put me on the map. 



176 




UNFORTUNATELY it was I, and not my clothes, that went 
onto the map in July, 1931. What was worse, I became 
inordinately fond of myself after my picture came out in 
all those papers. 

My nervousness in regard to press agents dates from that 

177 



time. Although I have since learned a great deal more about 
the ways and means and results of publicity, advertising, 
and promotions of people and things in general, press agents 
still give me the jitters. It is because they keep you concen- 
trating on yourself to such an extent that pretty soon you be- 
lieve the whole legend they're building up. 

Luckily, in September, after the Paris showing and re- 
sultant fame, I had a good case of hysterics the night after 
I showed my new fall clothes and regained my perspective. I 
used to burst into tears regularly twice a year on the comple- 
tion of each collection, because when I showed it, everyone 
would say, "It's the best collection you've ever made." 

I always knew some of it was good and some bad and 
always it seemed as if no one would be bothered to criticize 
it from any fundamental point of view. Ultimately I realized 
that the "art" of designing clothes in America is too com- 
mercial to have its theoretical critics. The American designer 
of clothes, or the store which sells clothes, has recourse to 
publicity or advertising as the means of notifying the public 
about what goes on. 

Everyone in America is fairly clear about the meaning 
of the word advertising. For a certain amount of money I, or 
anyone who has a product for sale, buys space in a news- 
paper or periodical which is presumably read by people who 
want what I sell. In this space I, the advertiser, theoretically 
have the privilege of printing any pictures or words I like 
concerning my product. 

The newspaper or magazine retains the right to refuse 
any ad which it considers false. It also retains the right to 
try and argue the advertiser out of printing news which is 
going to make a liar out of some other advertiser. 

As far as fashion advertising goes, it is no worse than 
any other advertising as regards the copy used to describe 

178 



the clothes shown. To say that over-exaggeration, hyperbole, 
is the general rule in advertising copy, would be to put it 
mildly. In general the public knows that the super-glamor- 
ous, hyper-chic, uncontrollably lush words are the bunk. 

But where the illustrations are concerned, fashion ads 
have a big chance to draw ten yards of material into a skirt 
where only three exist in reality, or to double the width of a 
fur collar. The only net result is that when the lady comes in 
to buy the coat as shown in the ad, she sees that the illustra- 
tion was made through rose-colored glasses. She can always 
refuse to buy and has only lost some, perhaps, valuable time. 

So, to go into the matter of fashion advertising would 
only be to question the entire advertising business, and 
sooner or later the American public will undoubtedly gel 
surfeited with it and rebel. I want to talk about the specific 
matter of fashion publicity. Publicity is editorial mention in 
the pages of a newspaper or magazine for which one does not 
pay directly or does not pay at all. 

Publicity for which one does not pay at all must be based 
on the subject having a real news value. The editors of the 
paper or magazine, being entirely convinced that the public 
wants to know certain facts, print the facts. 

The longer I live, the more I realize that there is com- 
paratively little real news in the world of style and fashion. 
What holds true for the Paris fashion reporter holds equally 
true for the New York fashion reporter. Filling a daily col- 
umn with straight fashion news is one long fight. The news- 
paper fashion reporter should be allowed to write about any- 
thing but clothes two-thirds of the time. 

The editors of most newspapers feel that, since they have 
such a large amount of daily advertising concerning fashion, 
they must run daily fashion columns. If those columns men- 
tion names of specific designers or stores, an enormous ri- 

179 



valry begins between various advertisers. If Lord and Taylor 
and R. H. Macy take an equal number of advertising lines 
per week, both stores feel they can demand an equal amount 
of editorial mention. 

In order to cope with this, the fashion writer would have 
to make mathematical calculations weekly, dividing her 
space in direct relation to the advertisers in her paper. Ob- 
viously Lord and Taylor and R. H. Macy do not necessarily 
furnish equal amounts of fashion news per week or per 
month. The fashion writer must be allowed some freedom in 
writing her column. 

The New York newspapers developed a uniform policy 
of mentioning no American names at all in their fashion col- 
umns. They often use a little box advising the public to write 
in and ask where the articles or garments mentioned can be 
bought. Sometimes they simply write up certain clothes or 
print pictures of them as general news without any possible 
identification of the source. The paper protects itself in this 
manner from the competitive jealousies of its advertisers 
and at the same time allows the fashion writer to talk about 
non-advertisers. 

In 1929, when I began to design in New York, practi- 
cally all the papers with the exception of the Hearst publica- 
tions pursued the above policy rigidly. It was literally 
impossible for the majority of fashion writers here to men- 
tion my name even if they liked Hawes clothes. 

The fact that I designed everything I sold did not solve 
the matter. There were few if any designers with their own 
shops and mentioning them by name was considered free ad- 
vertising. The names of all the French designers were always 
mentioned. Although their clothes were sold in most stores 
here, the French designer did not officially qualify as a po- 
tential advertiser. 

180 



The policy of not naming designers who work in New 
York has been slowly cracking up in the past decade. By 
1937 all New York newspapers with the exceptions of the 
New York Times and the Herald Tribune had given in to 
some extent. The World-Telegram, for instance, would not, 
in 1937, print the name of a designer below a sketch or pho- 
tograph but the fashion columnist could name names in her 
adjoining column. 

The case of the New York Times is more irritating. Their 
editorial policy remains publicly adamant on the subject, 
yet split wide open on one very special occasion connected 
with Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Times rotogravure sec- 
tion blazed forth one Sunday with a full length picture of 
the lady in a dress credited to Sally Milgrim. I guess it was 
Mrs. Roosevelt's inaugural ball gown or something of 
equally historic importance. The Milgrim credit line was no 
less enraging to those of us who had remained unheralded 
for several years, while dressing other ladies of equal impor- 
tance. 

The Times rotogravure section, like many other New 
York rotogravures, prints pages devoted to photographs of 
the new French designs each season. The creations of Moly- 
neux, Lelong, Patou, Lanvin, et al., are proudly shown to the 
public with the names of the individual designers attached. 

Another week, along comes the rotogravure section with 
a banner headline: American designed clothes. There are 
pages of dresses, coats, and suits. The fabrics are described, 
the colors and lines are written up. "Our own American de- 
signs" ... by whom? Why, by Americans. Who are they? 
What are their names? Never mind that, these are "Clothes 
designed in America" whoopee by perfectly nameless peo- 
ple, robots maybe. 

Syndicate fashion writers for out of town papers can 

181 



use names and do. A great many people in the hinterland, 
where no Hawes designs existed, knew I designed in New 
York before the local residents were apprised of the fact. 

The plight of Elizabeth Hawes in trying to gain recogni- 
tion as a designer from 1929 to the present day is the plight 
of all designers in America, and particularly in New York. 
Hollywood has built up its designers along with the rest of 
the stars. Chicago produced a fashion show of Chicago de- 
signed and manufactured clothes in the summer of 1937. 
Thousands of people went to see it. In New York, in the fall 
of 1937, one of the most important groups of women in fash- 
ion work found that, while they were ready and willing to 
put on a show of American designed clothes, the New York 
clothing manufacturers were not yet in a humor to co- 
operate. 

The fashion magazines are a powerful potential source 
of publicity for the designer in America. Perhaps you re- 
member I mentioned, proudly, the presence of represent- 
atives of the largest fashion magazines at my first opening. 
They were not only there, but they subsequently printed 
sketches of my clothes. What is more, they still do from time 
to time. I am very grateful to the editorial departments for 
this because I am not, at the moment, an advertiser. 

The life of the ladies who work on the editorial boards 
of fashion magazines is in my estimation a most unpleasant 
one. They would prefer to fill up the magazine with things 
which they want to show the public because they think the 
dresses are pretty or chic or smart or whatever it is they like. 
Although they are ostensibly hired to do just this, they are 
seldom allowed to. 

The editorial board of any fashion magazine is just a 
necessary evil to the business manager. If advertisers were 
bright enough to make ads which the public really wanted 

182 



to read, if Celanese would only print attractive little stories 
and bright quips on the pages for which it pays, then a fash* 
ion magazine could be published which was all ads. Then 
the business manager wouldn't forever have to remind the 
editorial board that if they don't do something about Lady- 
Dee corsets, we will lose the advertising. 

As it is, Lady-Dee corsets takes a certain number of 
pages a year, for which they pay some $1,500 each, for the 
purpose of telling the world about what divine corsets they 
make. At the same time, Lady-Dee corsets expects the edito- 
rial department to tell the world what divine corsets they 
make and do a much better job of it than any advertising 
agency on earth. 

It is not that the editorial department can't come through. 
It is that, sometimes, they don't just happen to think that 
Lady-Dee corsets are wonderful. They ignore Lady-Dee cor- 
sets, willfully. The advertising manager comes in. He bangs 
his fist on the table. He gets results. A photograph of a girl in 
Lady-Dee corsets and cellophane comes out in the editorial 
pages. The account is saved. 

Into the space where went the photograph of the girl in 
a corset there had been going, perhaps, a photograph of a 
girl in a dress designed and made by someone who does not 
advertise in the magazine. Maybe that photograph gets in 
next month. Maybe it never gets in. 

Pity the poor editorial department. They are driven to a 
point where they go first for everything to the advertisers of 
the magazine. There are plenty of them. The editors find 
more or less what they approve of from the advertisers. 

Or, believe it or not, if there just isn't anything, they 
send bright young girls down to tell the advertisers what to 
make so it can be put into the magazine without blushing. 
This, I would say, is fair. The magazines make their money 

183 



and pay their salaries through the advertiser. They should 
help him out. 

The thing of it is, what the public sees in the pages of 
any fashion magazine is not always what is selected for the 
good of the public but often what is selected for the good of 
the advertising department. 

The magazine is naturally in business to make money. 
The biggest advertisers are not necessarily the ones with the 
best merchandise. A sort of compromise is effected between 
the advertising department and the editorial board of any 
fashion magazine. In return for every ten editorial pages al- 
lotted to the wares of advertisers, a half a page is allowed 
to the wares of non-advertisers. 

There have been magazines which decided that a good 
snappy editorial department brought a certain kind of reader 
and the readers brought the advertisers. Therefore the edito- 
rial department must not be influenced by the advertising 
department. I have never known of a straight fashion maga- 
zine that was run in this way. I believe it could be done. 

It seems to me the experience of the New Yorker proves 
it. The New Yorker is not a fashion magazine, heaven knows 
and thank goodness. It, nevertheless, sells a fair amount of 
space to fashion advertisers who want to have its readers 
know about them. It is the policy of the New Yorker that the 
editorial department and the advertising department must 
not speak to one another. Lois Long writes as she pleases and 
goes to see what she feels like in the fashion mart. 

Sometimes I advertise in the New Yorker, sometimes I 
don't. L. L. usually gets around to see my clothes twice a 
year. Sometimes she likes them, sometimes she doesn't. That 
is her business and she reserves the right to say what she 
thinks. Whether or not I'm advertising, is of no importance. 

I was going to say, probably she doesn't even know. 
184 



Maybe she doesn't. But the New Yorker editorial board did 
once know that I was advertising. In an access of self-right- 
eousness or something, they told someone who handed in a 
profile about me that they couldn't print it because I was an 
advertiser! I immediately gave up advertising but they 
didn't print one anyway. 

The New Yorker isn't the only magazine which separates 
its editorial from its advertising. The big women's magazines 
can do it easily where fashion is concerned because they do 
not carry any local dress advertising. The Playbill, the New 
York theatre program, allows its fashion girl to go her own 
sweet way with occasional proddings, I gather. 

There is seldom a young designer with enough money to 
buy advertising space in the large fashion magazines. The 
designer therefore is deprived of a wide public hearing from 
that source. 

The young designer can not get a great deal of notice in 
the newspaper fashion columns. What is a young girl to do? 

She can hire a press agent who deals with the matter as 
best she may. The press agent deals with the commodity of 
style or fashion which is seldom news. The press agent must 
turn the designer herself into news. Here the feature story 
writers and the straight news reporters come in. 

A feature story writer is not interested in talking about 
the basic stylish features of the work of a clothes designer. 
Feature stories deal with intimate glimpses into one's private 
life or the more amusing angles of one's work. 

The world is apprised of the fact that Elizabeth Hawes 
goes off alone on freight boats, that she has Afghan hounds, 
that she likes to ride a bicycle in France, that she has made 
a jacket of mattress ticking or a skirt of shaved lamb. The 
world begins to think, quite rightly, that if Elizabeth Hawes 

185 



is representative of American Designers, those designers 
probably have amusing lives but are a little mad. 

The press agent of Elizabeth Hawes wants to promote 
Hawes clothes. She is unable to do much on that idea. She 
resorts to any sort of idea which will, as a last resort, get the 
name Hawes into print. 

I received a good deal of press on the Paris showing. 
None of it mentioned whether the clothes I showed were 
good or bad. I was a big brave girl who'd taken coals to New- 
castle. I had bearded the lions in their dens. 

My press agent got nervous, a couple of months after the 
clippings of my Paris exploits stopped coming in. She said, 
"The rotogravure sections have a bad time getting photo- 
graphs which are timely at Thanksgiving. If you will let me 
have your picture taken with a pumpkin, I am sure I can get 



it in." 



I said, "I am very busy. Why don't you have my picture 
taken later with a holly wreath and get it in for Christmas?" 

She said, "You are just beginning to get the idea." 

I didn't have my picture taken with a pumpkin or with 
a holly wreath. But I had gotten the idea. 

I realized that building up a name as a designer in Amer- 
ica was a ticklish job. It was going to have to be accomplished 
without benefit of much advertising. I also decided I had 
better get along as best I could without a press agent. I was 
afraid maybe I'd be broken down and find myself giving an 
Easter speech dressed in an egg. 

The whole story of the Paris showing and press-agentry 
gave me a healthy horror of press stunts. To me, showing the 
clothes in Paris was not basically a press stunt. I had a good 
sound fundamental desire to make the world know that 
clothes were not designed only in France. I had then, as I 
still have, a big urge to see everyone, male and female, beau- 

186 



tifully and functionally dressed. I believed then, as I still do, 
that if the hooey of Paris fashion could be scraped oil, de- 
signers would be left to function quietly all over the world, 
working satisfactorily for their small groups of customers. 

The fact that showing the clothes in Paris didn't turn on 
me and rend me limb from limb was partially a lucky acci- 
dent. Because I didn't have enough power or money to make 
it into a world-beating international press story, the whole 
universe wasn't given an opportunity to laugh very hard at 
me and at all American designing. 

American designing was still in its infancy. My show in 
Paris was, in a sense, a childish gesture of defiance. As I 
learned in the next two years, nobody was going to be able to 
kill designing here, but over-promoting before it was ready 
would set it back. 

Since the Paris showing, I've never tried to pull off any 
press stunt. I've done a few small things which have hit the 
national news like showing clothes in Russia. I have never 
tried to give out any stories about myself or my clothes un- 
less I was convinced that they were fit to print. 

All in all, the publicity path for the budding designer is 
not an easy one to follow, and I don't fully believe in the 
survival of the fittest where designers in America are con- 
cerned. All dress designers do not have friends to help them, 
as I have had, in making a name for myself. And many de- 
signers would be unable to adjust to becoming a news item. 
After all, we are supposedly merely designers, who want to 
ply our trade. It's quite a good deal to expect us to be press 
agent and business manager as well, and all of this without 
enough money to have the benefit of the advertising depart- 
ment's O.K. 

I think this more concretely now than I did in 1931. 
Since then I've seen some quite good designers come and go 

187 



because they couldn't scream loud enough to attract atten- 
tion, and had no money to pay someone else to do it for them. 
Since 1931, when the ships' news reporters put me on the 
map, I've become quite convinced that the public wants and 
the manufacturers need America's future designers. I've 
built up my own business which is an insignificant bit of the 
proof. The more important part of the story lies in the field 
of mass production. 



188 



LLJP for 




MY INTRODUCTION to mass production came about in 
that rather devious and underhanded way which runs 
straight through the story of fashion. It was Mary Lewis, the 
vice-president of Best and Co., who convinced me, for better 
or for worse, that I should learn about clothes in the raw 
white light of city streets. 

189 



This is what happened: My chief assistant, Mary Robin- 
son, designed a few things for Hawes Inc. along with her 
other functions of stockholder, model, saleslady. She, in the 
fall of 1931, designed a small leather jacket which buttoned 
on either side of the neck a la bellboy. 

This jacket, being of leather, was difficult to sew in our 
workroom so I found a leather coat manufacturer to make it 
for us. I explained to him that I wouldn't sell many but that 
if he would make those few, he could have the design to sell 
out of New York. It has always been my proud boast that 
what you bought at Hawes Inc. can be bought nowhere else 
in New York and, usually, nowhere else in the world. 

The manufacturer came up to the shop to get the jacket 
and assured me that he didn't want the design to sell himself 
at all. He was just a good fellow helping me out. As he left, 
I nevertheless called after him, "And if you do sell the jacket 
in New York, I will sue you!" 

We all laughed pleasantly and began to sell the jacket 
for $65. 1 paid him $15 to make it, me supplying the leather. 
It cost us about $20 so we were getting a 66 % mark-up which 
is average in specialty shops, although was somewhat higher 
than I had to take on most of the clothes at that time. I will go 
into the matter of pricing expensive clothes later. 

Life was going along calmly and pleasantly when, one 
Monday morning, my telephone began to ring and rang all 
day. Everybody was calling up to tell me that my jacket had 
been advertised by Best and Co. as "Schiaparelli's Little 
Mess Jacket." It was shortly after my fall opening in Sep- 
tember 1931, and all the fashion girls had seen the jacket in 
my shop. 

I remained philosophical. I said, "It is the first time it 
has happened but it won't be the last. Why worry?" Then I 
got a copy of the ad and slowly my anger began to rise. 

190 



Schiaparelli's little mess jacket, indeed! It was my mess 
jacket. It was, of course, Mary Robinson's mess jacket, but 
when you're the top, everything automatically becomes yours 
no matter how unfair it is. 

I rang up Mary Lewis, the vice-president of Best and Co. 
She had evidently been apprised of the facts of the case. 
She got into her hat and coat and came right up. She fixed me 
by being nice about it and I believed her when she said she 
had had no idea it wasn't a Schiaparelli. Probably she didn't, 
but possibly Best were liable just the same. 

However, she said, "I'll advertise it as yours at once." I 
said, "Oh, no, don't do that. I've never been advertised by 
anyone except myself for myself." 

"Ford makes all his money on Fords, not Lincolns," said 
Mary Lewis. 

"I'll call you up," I said, and after a couple of days, I 
did call her up and said okay. 

I then went to see the manufacturer who'd copied my 
jacket for me and for Best and Co. "Miss Hawes," he said, 
very seriously, "I never even do any business with Best. I 
couldn't have sold them the jacket." 

I looked hopelessly around at the walls, thick with ads 
of leather coats, ads from Best and Co. "What are these?" 
I asked. 

"Oh, just from years ago," he said firmly. 

We went on like that for about twenty minutes. Finally 
I arose to my feet and displayed temperament, a thing I very 
rarely do. "This is the most disgusting business in the 
world," I declaimed as I paced the floor. "I wish I had never 
been born if I have to be associated with anything so filthy. 
It is a mass of lies and thievery. Not even a nice young girl 
like myself can escape. I'm ashamed to think that I'm asso- 
ciated with the making of clothes. I wish I were dead." I took 

191 



out my handkerchief and blew my nose. I felt tears coming 
to my eyes. The manufacturer looked at me, very worried, 
very pale, he became. I let out a small sob and all the sorrows 
of his race overcame him. 

"Miss Hawes," he said, "I cannot tell a lie. I sold the 
jacket to Best and Co." 

"Thanks," I said, whipping away my handkerchief and 
making for the elevator. 

"What are you going to do?" He followed me out the 
door. 

"I don't know. Sue you probably." 

"Ooh!" he gasped. "You wouldn't be so mean!" 

My lawyer said I had no case so I just tore up the $75 
bill for the jackets the man had made for me and waited. In 
the meantime, I refunded the difference between our selling 
price of $65 and Best's of $29.50 to the customers who had 
bought the jacket from us. Our leather was better, but other- 
wise the jacket was the same. Mass production and selling 
makes quite a difference in price. Best probably paid him 
$15 including leather and took a 50% mark-up. 

God was on my side as usual. I was served with a sum- 
mons by the manufacturer for the price of five jackets he'd 
delivered. He did it upon getting quite a hot letter from me 
after his third bill. I said that if he kept on sending bills, I'd 
sue him. Obviously he didn't believe me. Nobody goes to 
court for $75. 

We did. I filed a counter claim of $1,000 for damages on 
the grounds that the entire outfit, of which the jacket was a 
part, had been ruined, that I could no longer sell it since 
Best was selling the jacket. They had called the suit in the 
municipal court and my lawyer didn't ask for a jury. 

We had one glorious day in court. They swore that they 
had never seen me before, first, and secondly that it was a 

192 



Schiaparelli design in any case. Just then, fortunately, came 
recess for lunch. 

I leapt out and got Schiaparelli's representative in Amer- 
ica to come and swear that Madame Schiaparelli had not 
designed the jacket. The judge said he gathered it was just 
as if someone had stolen the coat of his suit, only leaving him 
the vest and trousers. He awarded me $150 damages which 
I turned over to the lawyer and so broke even. 

Mary Lewis told me afterward the courts were preju- 
diced in favor of the designer in such cases. Maybe it's only 
justice. At any rate, I've never had the faintest fear of being 
copied from that day to this. I always know there is some way 
to get the person who does it, even if I have to be sued myself 
to accomplish it. (Anyway, I can always design another 
jacket.) 

The more important upshot was Miss Lewis' remark, 
boring into my brain "Ford makes all his money on Fords, 
not Lincolns." I was barely making enough money on my 
Lincolns to keep us all getting our small salaries every week. 

I was not particularly distraught about this, but the de- 
pression was getting worse. Those weeks were beginning 
when I hadn't enough money ahead on Monday to pay the 
next Friday payroll. 

Almost immediately up popped Lord and Taylor with an 
idea. They wanted to promote American Designers! They'd 
been mulling over the thought for two years. Now, they said, 
is the time. Who, they were then forced to ask themselves, 
are the designers? 

For the next few years, there was a game which you could 
start in any group of fashion people. You just said, "Who 
are the American Designers?" Then you watched everyone 
scurry around looking in corners to try and find them. Lord 
and Taylor found some and set about to "promote" them. 

193 



Promotion is one of those bright thoughts which Fashion 
uses to its full extent. To promote something in the depart- 
ment store world of fashion is to first decide to spend a cer- 
tain amount of money in advertising and buying merchan- 
dise. What the merchandise is, doesn't matter much. The 
idea is to make a big public stir which will fill your store up 
with people. They may not buy the thing you have chosen to 
promote, but if they get into the store, they are likely to buy 
something else. 

The best trick is to promote something which the public 
will, fortuitously, actually want. That way, you won't lose 
too much money getting them to spend what they have. A 
promotion is the department store version of a press stunt. 
If it is a good stunt, it makes the news columns and shows a 
profit. Otherwise, you have to give out all the news yourself 
in paid ads and you may lose money. 

Promoting American Designers was a press stunt for 
Lord and Taylor. There was a depression. They needed busi- 
ness. What to do? American Designers. 

Since I lost absolutely nothing by being promoted in the 
first batch of American Designers, but actually gained in the 
long run, I consider myself quite unprejudiced. Lest every- 
one think that I am just ascribing commercial motives to 
what was a generous gesture on the part of Lord and Taylor, 
I quote from the World-Telegram of April 13, 1932: 

STYLE DISPLAY 
100% AMERICAN 

The first complete showing of Amer- audience of professional critics who 

ican fashions created by Elizabeth afterward were luncheon guests of 

Hawes, Annette Simpson and Edith Miss Dorothy Shaver, vice-president 

Reuss, three American designers, and Director of the store's style Bu- 

who have stepped into the first rank reau. 

of international styling, was held to- The dominant note of the display 

day at Lord and Taylor's before an was the "Americanism" of the design- 

194 



ing, a trend which merchandise ex- must be clothes which are intrinsi- 

ecutives said would be a new means cally American, and that only the 

of stimulating business in the dress American designer can create them. 

industry (author's italics). That is why we turn today to com- 

"We still doff our hats to Paris," mend the spirit and the enterprise of 

Miss Shaver said at the luncheon, these young New York women who 

"Paris gave us our inspiration, and are working so successfully to create 

still does. But we believe that there an American style." 

We had come a long way since 1927 when I wanted to 
design clothes for Lord and Taylor in Paris. There was no 
necessity for their falling for that idea. The public was going 
for everything. Everything was French and it sold. 

Now, in the spring of 1932, there was a depression. Buy- 
ing French models was expensive. Moreover, they were sold 
by Klein for $4.75. Besides that, the French weren't paying 
their debts and the British were "Buying British." The pub- 
lic was holding onto its nickels. It needed something star- 
tling to pry them loose. 

Lord and Taylor bought six models from me which I 
designed specially for them at $200 each. When they first 
asked me, I was in great doubt what to do. Mary Lewis said 
she thought I should go ahead and ask all the traffic would 
bear. $200 seemed to be all the traffic would bear. I hesitated 
a long time because I was afraid I would alienate my own 
clients by making cheap clothes. 

Finally I went in all the way. I was somewhat horrified 
at finding I had to attend the luncheon with Annette Simpson 
and Miss Reuss and present my own clothes to the assembled 
multitude. I never got through anything like that without 
gritting my teeth and muttering for God for country and for 
Yale over to myself. 

The luncheon was very grand. All the top fashion people 
were there. The only harm the whole thing did me was that a 
very high fashion lady told someone I had no business get- 

195 



ting up and making speeches because I wasn't anybody any- 
way. 

I shrugged that off and made a second set of models for 
Lord and Taylor. They promoted another set of American 
designers, Clare Potter and Muriel King. 

The promotions were widely publicized as well as adver- 
tised. A flood of articles on American Designers came out in 
newspapers and magazines all over the U. S. A. I came in for 
my share, especially since my name, due to the Paris show- 
ing, was already known somewhat. 

My publicity never brought many individual customers 
to Hawes Inc. The great majority of the customers have come 
one from another, except for those I got from the early New 
Yorker ads. But all of the press I have received, and par- 
ticularly the Lord and Taylor promotion, has been exceed- 
ingly useful in bringing manufacturers to my door. 

Usually I think these manufacturers have had very little 
idea of my capabilities. Often I have failed at the jobs I've 
undertaken for them. They assumed naively that, since I re- 
ceived a quantity of publicity, I must understand their busi- 
ness and be good at it. Where they wanted to hire my name 
for its press value and didn't really want me to do anything, 
I generally succeeded. 

I am none the less greatly indebted to the press. I think 
I should not have survived the depression without the outside 
jobs that my clippings brought me. The very first of these 
jobs entered my life in disguise. 

Early in 1932 there appeared in my office a dark-haired 
young woman with a vivacious face who insisted on talking 
to me. In the old days, on one floor in Fifty-sixth Street, al- 
most anybody who had an urge could lay hand on me. There 
was one small office off the showroom through which one had 

196 



to pass to get to the elevator. I had not graduated to the sec- 
retary stage. 

I was constantly harassed with insurance salesmen, 
hand-woven fabric ladies, people who wanted to sell me real 
estate or corsets, or who wanted me to sell them clothes. I 
used to hide in the office to the best of my ability until the 
sales force of one found out what any unknown person 
wanted. 

The brunette in question, as I heard through the door, 
would not state her business. She would see Miss Hawes. I 
emerged and learned that her husband had a wholesale bag 
business. She'd been reading about me in the papers and 
thought I might design some bags. 

I allowed as how I guessed I could if anyone wanted 
them. I think I can design anything except engines. She went 
away saying she'd be back with her husband. Surprisingly 
enough, they arrived a day or so later. 

The gentleman, who might have been called Mr. Smith, 
talked a little about his business. He said that the Smith Co. 
made good and expensive bags. They had been going once a 
year to Paris for a long time and buying models. They were 
growing sick of Paris as a source. The bags were good but 
all their competitors had the same models. 

Since the Smith Co. made expensive bags, they were in 
a bad spot. Other bag manufacturers made copies of the 
French models cheaper than they know how. Anyway, he 
assured me, Smith Co. was an old firm and they had always 
made fine merchandise. They didn't want to make cheap 
things. 

The firm had originally been his father's business and 
made very fine luggage. The depression was knocking the 
bottom out of the expensive luggage business. The Smith Co. 
had begun to make bags as a side line at first. Now they were 

197 



immersed in the bag business, not paying much attention to 
the luggage. 

I nodded sympathetically to all he said. I explained that 
the guts of my business was the fact that I did my own design- 
ing and had no truck with French models. 

Hesitatingly he stated his mission. He and his brother 
wondered whether they would dare give up buying French 
models and have their own designs. I could tell from his tone 
that Smith and Brother Smith had argued long about this 
grave decision. They hadn't yet really reached a conclusion. 

Mrs. Smith picked the right girl to convince them when 
she came in to me. I launched into one of my speeches about 
designing in America, how it was all nonsense that it couldn't 
be done; how it was obviously not profitable, as he had 
proven, to use French designs in expensive merchandise; 
how there must be dozens of people who could design bags 
in America ; how, of course, I could do it if they wanted me 
to. 

So Brother Smith was brought to talk to me. He was 
something of a designer himself, younger than Plain Smith, 
less businesslike, more emotional. Plain Smith had told me 
that Brother Smith was the one who went to Paris every year 
for models. I gathered the trip was a pleasure to him. When 
I saw him, I realized it was a pleasure because he liked get- 
ting away from the bag business, not because he liked buy- 
ing for it. 

The business, I gathered, was not so hot. They thought 
it might possibly be connected with using only French de- 
signs. I didn't know anything about the bag business, but it 
seemed rather obvious to me that if all the bag manufac- 
turers were busy selling the same bags, they couldn't any of 
them be operating at much of a profit. 

We had a good many conferences, Plain and Brother 

198 



Smith talking and arguing, with me as mediator. After 
enough thought to have reconstructed eight or ten bag busi- 
nesses, they finally drew a long breath and decided to risk 
everything on some American designed bags. 

I was elected to do them a "line." In the wholesale busi- 
ness, any collection of anything shown at one time is known 
as a "line." At the beginning of every season, you "get out 
the new line." You are always in a panic because the French 
make their lines to show in August and you, in America, have 
to get busy in June. 

However brave any wholesaler may look when he hires 
me or anybody else to do a line in America, he trembles in 
his boots half the day for fear we won't do what the French 
are about to do. He trembles because almost all the later 
fashion reports will be based entirely on what the French 
have put out. If he hasn't done more or less the same thing, 
the reporters will just think he doesn't know his business. 
The buyer will not recognize the designs in his line and they 
may not dare buy them. 

I set about doing a bag line with the help of an appren- 
tice, Dorothy Zabriskie. She turned out to be so good, I hired 
her afterward. The Smith Co. did their very best to get our 
ideas from sketches. Finally we resorted to muslin patterns 
which was somewhat more satisfactory. 

By the time we had explained all to Brother Smith, who 
took care of the designing end, and he had re-explained it to 
the man who actually made the sample, a good deal of the 
original thought was gone. After a couple of months, we 
were finally allowed to talk to the sample-maker ourselves. 
Originally the Smith Co. said we'd only upset him. 

We didn't upset him. He upset us. He was a perfectly 
competent craftsman who knew how to make bags. We did 
not know how to make bags. Therefore he despised us. He 

199 



was perfectly right. No one should dare to design anything 
he can't make himself. 

The craftsmen in the wholesale businesses in America 
have acquired a complete disrespect for a certain kind of 
people who call themselves designers and are only sketchers. 

"Why the devil should this woman come in here and try 
to tell me what to do?" they mutter darkly as they bend over 
their tools, and you try to tell them that you want a fold 
fold in the bottom of the bag. 

You don't know how to put the fold in the bottom of the 
bag. Some instinct just says to you that it can be done. They 
wish you to hell and decide that you are wrong. They have 
never seen a bag with a fold in the bottom. They look up 
rather cutely and say, "I'm sorry, but you see, you just can't 
put a fold in the bottom of a bag. The leather won't go that 
way." 

After three hours, you go away beaten. If you care 
enough, you get some leather and fold it just to prove you're 
right, but there's no use showing it to the bagmaker. 

Suddenly, three weeks later, you find a new bag on his 
table. It has the most fabulously horrible gilt top ever in- 
vented. The leather is fake sharkskin. In the bottom, there is 
a fold. If you are wise, you say nothing. A few weeks after, 
you find the bag again, in the showroom. You take it in to 
the bag-maker. You say, "This is a wonderful bottom to this 
bag. How did you ever think of such a thing?" You carefully 
omit the word fold. He carefully omits the word fold. You 
get your bag, when he gets around to it, some eight weeks 
after you had the original idea. 

He is right. You are wrong. You have no business telling 
him how to make a bag. You don't know yourself. You are 
no designer at all but just a bastard stylist. 

In any case, you do know a few things which could help 

200 



the firm. They can't seem to find anyone else who knows any- 
more. And so, you persist doggedly. We got some fairly good 
bags made by and for the Smith Co. for the first year. We 
spent seventy-five percent of our time telling them to make 
soft bags. Soft not stiff like cardboard, see? soft SOFT 
SOFT. 

The Smith Co. business took a spurt under the Hawes 
aegis. The bags were promoted, widely advertised by the 
stores that bought them because they had a story to tell: 
"Hawes bags that bright young American designer." 

I was at first scarcely aware of anything but the design- 
ing, although I was repeatedly told that the Smiths made no 
money. They lost less, they said. One day they came in to ask 
me if they could set up an out-of-town factory in my name. 

Why? Because they wanted to run a non-union shop with 
cheaper wages and to do it they must go to Connecticut. They 
must take another name or they would be caught, the shop 
in New York where the bags had been made having been 
unionized. 

My manager said why not, I wouldn't be liable for any 
debts. It could all be arranged. I laughed. My courses in 
Labor Problems at Vassar went through my head. "By the 
time I'm through with this business," I said, "I'll know every 
little trick. Go ahead." 

I, meanwhile, was being prodded into further action by 
Lord and Taylor and the depression. It was not satisfactory 
for them to buy dress models from me and have them manu- 
factured by someone else. They had to pay out extra money 
for the original model. 

On the other hand, I was getting very little more for an 
original model from them than I did from any customer for 
a dress. Lord and Taylor told me I should work directly 
with a dress manufacturer so they could buy stock. 

201 



Stock is what a department store has to have, not one 
dress in one color, but rows of that dress, pink, blue, brown, 
black. Of all the American Designers promoted in 1933, 
only Clare Potter worked for a wholesaler and was really in 
a position to qualify for selling in mass production. 

I was becoming intrigued with department store clothes. 
The minute I saw that hundreds of women could have Hawes 
clothes, I wanted thousands to wear them. 

This was the beginning of Miss Elizabeth Hawes running 
a two-, three-, sometimes four-ring circus for the next few 
years. These are the years which made me appreciate my 
ivory tower, yes, but much more. These are the years during 
which I discovered that what a lady bought and paid for 
when she purchased a $15.75 dress was possibly $10 of 
dress plus $5.75 of obstinate stupidity on the part of the 
dress manufacturer. 

The stupidities of the French Legend were as apparent 
to my customers as to me. I didn't dream of the flimsiness 
of the Great American Boast, that all women here can have 
beautiful clothes because we have conquered mass produc- 
tion. 

I now got right inside Fashion's bright cellophane wrap- 
per. 



202 



/6 




WHEN the banks closed in March of 1933, exactly three 
days after I had shown my new collection, I was taken 
aback, to put it mildly. 

My fitter, who was Viennese, fell to pieces in my office 
and said that in every country she'd ever worked in, the min- 

203 



ute she saved up a few dollars, the banks closed, and now 
here it was in America. I was afraid we wouldn't sell a dress 
and the entire workroom would starve to death. We can- 
vassed them and found that ninety percent of them were the 
sole support of families on their munificent salaries of $25 a 
week. I had never given a wage cut since I started in 1929. 

I made them a fantastic proposition: if they'd all work 
for whatever they had to have, I'd arrange to see them 
through until the following fall somehow, including their bi- 
annual lay-off in the summer. This meant I wanted to pay 
some of them who had husbands working $15 a week and 
others who had three children $25, regardless of their for- 
mer salaries. I figured they'd been working together for sev- 
eral years and would cooperate with one another. 

Of course, they simply didn't know what I was talking 
about. They never could think more than one payroll ahead 
even in good times. One of them, a spinster who earned $35 
a week as a draper, emphatically told me that she was in the 
habit of giving so much a week to the Catholic church and 
couldn't get on with less than her present wage ! 

A couple of them said they'd do anything I suggested. 
The rest remained stonily silent. So I just slashed their wages 
from a base of $25 to a base of $18 and the Catholic lady 
quit, together with two others who afterward were forced to 
return. It was a horrid time for all of us. 

I would have saved myself a lot of trouble by just cut- 
ting the wages in the beginning as everyone else did. My staff 
of two models and an assistant salesgirl came around and 
offered to work for $15 a week, whereat we all had a good 
cry and got to work. 

I notified the customers I would make them clothes for 
anything they had to spend and, when the season ended, I 

204 



found I had broken even! In the meantime, since we were not 
deluged with orders, I had plenty of time for thought. 

I thought, in general, about Mary Lewis and how she had 
told me Ford made his money out of Fords, not Lincolns. 
And, specifically, I thought about the wholesale business. I 
wanted to talk to somebody about my ideas, and Amos Par- 
rish had been one of my best advisors in the past. He, I felt, 
would listen sympathetically to what I had in mind about me 
and the wholesale business. 

When I saw him, I told him that I could design twice as 
many things as I did, anyway, so why not do it for the whole- 
sale. That irritating man probably produced the right an- 
swer, disregarding depressions, and knowing me a little. 

He said, "If you can design twice as many clothes, why 
don't you throw away half the designs before you make 
them?" 

He turned me over, however, to a gentleman in his office 
named Ray Kraemer, a small, sharp-featured man with 
glasses. Mr. Kraemer said, "I wouldn't take Bergdorf Good- 
man or Hattie Carnegie for a gift. The way to make money 
in this town is to own S. Klein and sell $3. 75s." 

He was entirely right. The problem, as it later unfolded 
itself to me, was: Is it worth it? He was the gentleman who 
told me at dinner one night that there wasn't any occasion 
for the fabric manufacturers of America to back designers. 
"There will always be fools like you," he said, "who will 
own businesses like yours." 

I hated him for he was right again. Anyway, the French 
understand. People like Mr. Kraemer make me quite senti- 
mental over Mr. Rodier. 

At that very instant, I owed Mr. Rodier enough money so 
he could have put me out of business any minute. I used al- 
most exclusively French fabrics, mostly Rodier, Bianchini, 

205 



and Ducharne. These gentlemen, in the persons of their 
American representatives, kept me going through the depres- 
sion. 

Certainly they wanted me to use and to be able to con- 
tinue to use their fabrics, and certainly I paid plenty for 
them. Equally certainly, due to the exigencies of running a 
shop like Hawes Inc. which I shall further unfold in a later 
chapter, had it not been for the credit in money, and advice 
and encouragement given me, notably by Mr. Newberg of 
Bianchini, I would not be alive to tell the tale. 

Perhaps I might better have spent my time in 1933 com- 
muning with the French than with American Big Business. 
But somehow or other, I had to have my fling. Also, for a 
brief moment, I was intrigued with the idea of making more 
than a subsistence wage. "Ford makes his. . . ." 

I finally found a new advisor in the person of Louis 
Kirstein, the head of a large group of stores including Filene 
in Boston and Bloomingdale in New York. He, out of the 
bigness of his heart, told a man in his office to find a whole- 
sale dress manufacturer with whom I could work. 

One day in the spring of '33 1 was called to Mr. Kirstein's 
office. His assistant said, "Well, I've found someone for you. 
I think you can get on with him. He is really a fine man. He's 
honest" 

I was slightly taken back. Lo and behold, with the pas- 
sage of the years I had forgotten Mr. Weinstock and all his 
and my dealings. The wholesale clothing manufacturer had 
crept back into my life via the stealing of my leather jacket 
and I had accepted him as a matter of course. That was the 
way business was done. Ordinarily no one goes so far as to 
suggest that any dress manufacturer is either honest or dis- 
honest. Actually it is rather taken for granted that everyone 
is out to gyp everyone else on Seventh Avenue. 

206 



Seventh Avenue is the general term used to denote the en- 
tire wholesale clothing business in New York. In Paris they 
have La Couture. Here we have Seventh Avenue. 

Seventh Avenue is a wide street, flanked by many small 
skyscrapers. The blocks from Forty-second Street down to 
Thirty-fourth Street are given over to clothing all American 
women. The street is jammed not only with vans and cars, but 
with many, many boys who push little trucks endlessly from 
building to building. The trucks are filled with bolts of mate- 
rial or dresses on hangers. 

At noon time, the block between Broadway and Seventh 
Avenue at Forty-first Street is entirely given over to hundreds 
and hundreds of somberly clothed men who stand there, 
smoking and talking. These are the men who cut the clothes. 
They herd there every day. 

When the working day is over, thousands of dark-haired 
Jews from Poland and Russia, Lithuania and Germany, pour 
from their sewing machines into Seventh Avenue. They are 
the skilled craftsmen and women of the American couture. 

Hour after patient hour, they cut and sew up the dresses, 
coats, and suits which clothe the great American woman- 
hood. Thousands more like them, and also of good old Amer- 
ican Nordic stock, are engaged in the same occupation in 
small towns and cities outside New York. 

Out of town they are sweated and exploited, kicked and 
underpaid. They hive in cellars where they get $9 a week for 
fifty-four hours of sewing up your $4.95. 

In New York, they are organized, that hated word. They 
are better paid and work thirty-five hours a week. They are 
laid off many weeks in the year, and all the weeks of the year 
their work is speeded up. They are spit upon and they are 
known to the outside world as "dirty Jews." People say 

207 



they're un-American. Kick 'em out. Let 'em go back where 
they came from. 

Their bosses call them kikes and say to hell with their 
rotten unions. What right have they got trying to run my 
business? 

But every day the skilled craftspeople of this great Amer- 
ican couture turn up on Seventh Avenue just the same, and 
sew and sew and sew for the purpose of clothing the Amer- 
ican woman beautifully. 

They do not decide how small the seams are to be, how 
cheap the silk, how quickly the garment is to be finished. 
They do as they are told. 

Out of their midst rise many of the Weinstocks, the Leo 
Levines, and the Joe Rosenthals who are the captains of the 
American dress industry. They, or their fathers, came to the 
promised land and managed to start their own little busi- 
nesses. If they learned their lessons well, the little businesses 
grew into big ones. Leo turns into Leo Levine. 

Now Leo Levine has money. He has a big automobile and 
he goes to Paris. He plays the stock market or buys real es- 
tate. He becomes an American. He often says wonderful 
things to you, in his new language. He watches the dresses go 
by, his dresses on his mannequins in his showroom. He nar- 
rows his eyes, takes a puff on his cigar. "Look at the carriage 
of that dress," he sighs with a dreamy look. 

Leo Levine was trained in a hard school. He does unto 
others as he was done by. Naturally he doesn't treat his work- 
ers any better than his boss treated him. He was taught by 
his boss to save four yards of material on every hundred 
dresses even if the seams did split. He learns quickly, watch- 
ing Joe Rosenthal, how to sit at ease in Patou's salon and 
watch Elizabeth Hawes take her little notes for his sketches. 

Joe Rosenthal, another leader on Seventh Avenue, didn't 

208 



rise from the ranks. His father saved enough to send him to 
Columbia and set him up in business. But when he got onto 
Seventh Avenue, he found it was Leo Levine's street and the 
Levine psychology which dominated there. Joe Rosenthal 
found that if he wanted to compete with Leo Levine, he better 
cut out the seams and try to get a better price on the material. 

Since Leo never had anything to start with and was edu- 
cated to believe in getting into the big money as fast as pos- 
sible, by any of the few means at his disposal, he is an in- 
veterate gambler. Most of the money he makes on Seventh 
Avenue is lost on Wall Street. 

He runs his business like a gambling establishment and 
exhibits his most unforgivable fault in a world devoted to 
business efficiency. At the end of a season, when things are 
added up, if Leo has made money, okay. If he hasn't, he 
shuts up that shop and starts another. 

Joe Rosenthal doesn't run his business in any such man- 
ner. He has accountants and even efficiency experts. He fig- 
ures cost correctly. But right around the corner is Leo Levine 
who hoisted himself up by his own bootstrap and has learned 
one only pays for what one can't obtain by other means. Leo 
Levine copies all Rosenthal's best sellers, at a lower price of 
course. 

An organization is formed, at the instigation of Joe 
Rosenthal et al., and Levine and Co. are taken in. It is an 
organization to prevent copying. The ball is tossed to the de- 
partment stores. If any store is found selling a copy of one 
of Mr. Rosenthal's or Mr. Levine's dresses, all the 
members of the particular manufacturers organization agree 
not to sell that store any more dresses at all until such a time 
as the store promises to be good. 

Joe Rosenthal has now got Leo Levine where he wants 
him. He's fixed things so Leo simply can't copy Rosenthal's 

209 



clothes. A cause celebre against one of the large department 
stores found selling a copy of a registered dress is won by the 
organization. Leo Levine makes a speech celebrating the vic- 
tory of Seventh Avenue. The majority of the manufacturers 
who belong to the organization shake hands and leave by the 
next boat for Paris where they all obtain as many sketches as 
possible. They all obtain the same sketches, and return home 
to start a new season, competing on the price of the copies of 
the sketches which they have promised not to steal from one 
another. 

The clothing business is the second largest in the United 
States. Some day it may well be run like the United States 
Steel, which it surpasses in volume. In the meantime, there 
is just one little item which neither Leo Levine nor Jose 
Rosenthal can ever figure out. It happens to be the founda- 
tion upon which their entire business is based, regardless 
of how it may be run. 

It is a thing to which they subscribe, in which they be- 
lieve. It is called Fashion. 

Levine and Rosenthal alike are completely bamboozled 
by Fashion. They never know what kind of dress to make 
next. They never know whether skirts are going to continue 
short or get long or turn into trousers overnight. They feed 
the entire super-structure of fashion press and department 
stores, but they have never been able to find out what to feed 
it when. 

The manufacturers' only contact with the public is 
through the department store buyer. Her chief contact with 
the public is through her salesgirls. She doesn't hear much 
about individual customers from them. She seldom sees cus- 
tomers herself. 

The buyer secretly wishes the manufacturer would 
tell her what to buy. He wishes she'd tell him what to make. 

210 



Often she does. They both rely mostly on Paris to give them 
the tip off, Paris, and the comparative shopping department. 

The manufacturer has a comparison shopping depart- 
ment which goes out in the person of a sketcher and brings 
him news of what the other manufacturers are making. Most 
dress manufacturers get on with no designers at all. They 
simply look around, buy some sketches, talk things over with 
some buyers, discuss the whole matter with the head cutter. 
The head cutter, who considers himself a designer, proceeds 
to make up a "line." 

He never finishes making up a line. Day in and day out, 
he makes more models. As soon as he has finished the seventy 
or eighty which make up the first line of any season, he be- 
gins to "fill in." Since the manufacturer himself has no in- 
dividualized taste but relies entirely on the opinion of his 
customers, he throws out of the first line all the dresses which 
don't appeal to a large number of buyers. 

The cutter fills in with other dresses which are in turn 
thrown out and replaced by more models. He has no particu- 
lar reason for making anything he puts in. But he never 
starts a dress he doesn't finish. He runs up new models in a 
couple of days. When they're finished, the boss and the sales 
force look them over. They put them in the line or throw 
them away. The waste is terrific. 

It is not as though they were constantly trying out really 
new things. All the filling in is done on the same basic pat- 
terns month after month. It is the proud boast of some whole- 
salers that they make up a whole line with only three dress 
patterns. The newness, so loudly called for, is new trimming, 
new collars and cuffs, new glass buttons, new clips, new 
flowers, and all of this, not too new, please. 

Nobody ever does a scientific job of figuring out where 
the public taste has gotten, whether the women are ready to 

211 



wear high waists or long skirts or whatever. They hoot at you 
when you suggest all this trying out is absolutely unneces- 
sary and very costly besides. To them, what they call fashion 
is a mystery which they will never understand. Fashion does 
manage to be a mystery most of the time, but style, of course, 
is different. 

Fashion is a mystery because it's something which de- 
veloped with no relation to the public taste or need. Some- 
times, if it is highly enough promoted, a fashion gets by for 
a short time. Sometimes a fashion turns out to be amusing, 
like tying a handkerchief around your head instead of wear- 
ing a hat. That, in fact, threatens to become a style. It is so 
simple and practical. 

' One year at Hawes Inc. we were amused to embroider 
"Fes" on the palm of a woolen glove and 'Wo" on the back 
of its mate. It was silly and everyone bought the gloves, wore 
them and threw them away. If the embroidery could have 
been done in mass production, which it couldn't, it might 
have been a fashion for a very short time. 

Every single season the flower manufacturers put on 
shows and send out news that certain flowers are right or 
chic or indispensable. Sometimes it just happens that flowers 
really chime in with the type of dress being worn. Some- 
times the spring is so wonderful and life is so gay, the women 
all feel like pinning a flower on their coats. Then certain 
flowers are fashionable. Sometimes the women just don't 
want to wear flowers and so the flower manufacturers have a 
bad time and complain that one can never tell about the 
public taste. 

Sometimes well-known designers in Paris put out dresses 
with lots of sequins. The American dress manufacturers all 
proceed to put out dresses with sequins, lots of dresses with 
lots of sequins. The stores promote them. Sequins are said to 

212 



be the fashion. The dresses sell only in cheap versions. The 
manufacturers say you can never tell about the public taste. 
The manufacturers, some of them, anyway, have been in 
business for decades. They don't seem to realize that sequins 
are relatively expensive in France. Here we can almost all 
remember a thousand cheap, tawdry little sequin dresses, 
straight, knee-length, hanging in Broadway shops. 

Here we know that sequins are cheap and if they get 
started again, there will be an indigestion of them. Natur- 
ally, most women who pay a good price for an evening dress 
don't want sequins here. Aside from the snob element in- 
volved, the association of Theda Bara and the sequin robe, 
it is just too easy to get absolutely sick of the sight of a 
sequin. 

Even if nothing were involved but the snob element, any 
intelligent business man should be fully aware of its work- 
ings. Let the $4.95s have sequins, Joe Rosenthal. Your more 
expensive clientele are not unpredictable. They won't want 
them. 

And again and again, why, oh why, Joe Rosenthal, were 
you so surprised when skirts got long and waists natural? 
For three long years it had been coming. It was a style, 
Mr. Rosenthal. Style is never unpredictable. 

But Rosenthal and Levine are not occupied with style. 
They believe that everything changes twice a year and they 
want it to. Otherwise people wouldn't have to buy so many 
clothes. Nor are the manufacturers occupied with quality 
because it wears and makes future buying unnecessary. They 
are not concerned with whether clothes are useful or beau- 
tiful or functional. That, apparently, is not a part of their 
job. 

The obvious reason I ultimately caused so much trouble 

213 



for N. H. Nibs was because I didn't understand when I took 
the job just what it was all about. Mr. Nibs was the dress 
manufacturer whom Mr. Kirstein's assistant found for me. 



214 



/7 



, (S/iot J^incoln* 




MR. NIBS was a second cousin of Joe Rosenthal. He was 
tall, gray-haired, black-eyed, and nervous. He was 
tired. 

I am sure when Mr. Nibs first went into the wholesale 
business, eighteen years before I met him, he was quite able 

215 



to cope with it all. Fashion hadn't speeded things up to the 
point where one had to at least pretend that things changed 
every week or so. Mr. Nibs originally had a stable business 
in older women's dresses. 

Fashion overtook him fashion and bad times. One of 
the standard jokes of the wholesale trade goes like this: You 
point to a dress at an opening and say, "That's a good 
woman's dress." To which your interlocutor responds, 
"There are no good women any more." 

Certainly the number of women who wanted Mr. Nibs' 
good women's dresses diminished. The depression finally set 
in in earnest. Like practically all the manufacturers who sub- 
sequently crossed my path, Mr. Nibs sought to counteract 
the depression by trying something different. 

He went all the way when he hired and publicized an 
American Designer. I am sure he must often have regretted 
the whole incident, although I know he feels, as I do, that if 
I hadn't been trained to make expensive clothes to order (and 
liked it), he and I might have worked out beautifully to- 
gether. He was stubborn but not immovable, and he was a 
thoroughly honest man. 

I hired myself out to him the end of May, 1933, for $100 
a week cash and a commission on his gross business. My job 
was to do all the designing on my own hours. I was still, of 
course, running Hawes Inc. uptown. 

N. H. Nibs was a house which specialized in sportswear 
at prices ranging from $10.95 to $39.50 wholesale. You 
double all wholesale prices, approximately, to get the retail 
price. 

A very odd thing about the wholesale business is that all 
the houses specialize. Most of them have never had a de- 
signer in any real sense of the word, and it is probably easier 
for them to concentrate on one kind of clothes. For a de- 

216 



signer, it is insane. The minute one has an idea for sport 
clothes, one sees the rest of the clothes the women will want. 

Since most wholesalers are not used to working with real 
designers, they regard it as their right and duty to tell whom- 
ever is trying to fulfill that function what to design. They 
say, "Make me up six little satin afternoon dresses." You 
should instantly have six ideas for satin. You are not sup- 
posed to like or dislike any kind of material or any kind of 
cut. You, as a wholesale designer, are supposed to turn out 
automatically three or four new designs a week, fifty-two 
weeks a year, in whatever material anyone wants on what- 
ever lines anyone chooses. This is one good reason why few 
real designers have been able to work on Seventh Avenue. 

And besides the wholesale designer on Seventh Avenue 
is supposed to design twelve months of the year. Inevitably 
she runs dry. She has to run to Paris for help, or she'll get 
thrown out. The wholesalers continually change designers, 
taking in one and throwing out another. 

If the wholesale dress business were run for the purpose 
of creating style, each designer would turn out her hundred 
new ideas with their variations every year, thoughtfully and 
carefully. She would have time to see the public for which 
she works, maybe even talk to it. 

As it is, the cry for "something new," something new to 
advertise, something new to show the buyers, something new 
to catch the public eye, is an unceasing din, dulling the 
senses, stopping the imagination of almost every Seventh 
Avenue designer. 

I do not mean to suggest that there are no really creative 
designers on Seventh Avenue. There are a few who own and 
design for their own businesses. Some of them are known to 
the public, such as Clare Potter, who is a partner in her firm. 

In general, the wholesale dress manufacturer is not anx- 

217 



ious to have his designer become known for the very simple 
reason that it gives the designer too much power. If she is a 
successful designer, she is married into or taken into the firm 
as fast as possible for fear she may leave, lured by a higher 
salary. 

In any case, whatever her status in any firm not her own, 
there are certainly few wholesale designers who are allowed 
to work out their designs without interference. The interfer- 
ence is occasioned by the boss's fear of Fashion. He will not 
believe that any human being really understands it. He will 
believe, in his heart of hearts and usually quite openly and 
loudly, that the French make it and only they can know what 
to do about it next. Obviously he must therefore believe 
Parisian designers are some sort of goddesses. 

Of late years it has become the fashion among wholesale 
dress manufacturers to say that the Paris designers aren't 
so hot after all. But, as the manufacturers say it, they are 
either hastily examining a pile of French sketches or catch- 
ing a boat for the land of God. 

In the beginning of my career at Nibs, my boss had the 
proper respect for me. He let me alone to do what I liked. My 
newspaper clippings had put the fear of my personal God 
into him. In fact, everyone in the place kept looking at me 
nervously out of the corner of their eyes for months. They 
expected me to have "temperament." Maybe I would have 
gotten on better if I'd displayed it. 

I set to work to make my first line in June 1933. The 
gentleman who was to make the models for me was named 
Mr. Meyer. He was an angel. He was about my height, only 
twice my width, bald and shiny. He had wonderful big scis- 
sors which he wielded with great skill. He began by trying his 
best to do what I asked. 

He found I knew something about making clothes which 

218 



helped a lot. I found he knew how to make clothes just one 
way which didn't help at all. He made all skirts tight, and 
I mean tight. He made all waists with tucks so they could be 
"cut for large sizes." He made all dresses too small across 
the back and set in all sleeves wrong after cutting them too 
small in the armhole. 

He thought very slowly, and accurately according to his 
own ideas. If you told him to do something he either didn't 
know how to do or didn't want to do, he said yes and didn't 
do it. He cut the original models directly in the final material 
without one inch of leeway for alteration of any kind. He 
had them sewed up by his very expert sample makers in a 
few hours. 

You'd give him a sketch one morning and when you came 
back from lunch there would be a dress, not what you had in 
mind, but a dress. The neckline would be too low and too 
wide, the waist-line would be straight where yours was 
curved, the sleeve would be tight where yours was to have 
been full, the skirt would have just enough flare to look as if 
the seams hadn't been sewn straight. 

And there would be Mr. Meyer, beaming and perspiring 
and proud. It was heartbreaking. He'd never really made de- 
signs, just more and more models, all cut from one basic pat- 
tern. He considered himself a designer and he was very, very 
touchy on the subject. If he hadn't been a perfect gentleman 
and I hadn't been so profoundly sure he was trying to do his 
best, we would have knocked one another down twice a day. 

As it was, we turned out a line of dresses and suits which 
wasn't bad at all. I was feeling my way and being conserva- 
tive. Conservative for me is already daring for Seventh 
Avenue. I made color combinations of red and purple and 
blue which seemed to me quite banal and knocked the sales 
force dead. 

219 



The clothes sold. They sold because we promoted them. 
Wheee . . . what my Hawes Inc. manager and I didn't tell 
the department store world Hawes had done. We got out a 
big folder with reprints of clippings. It was a wonderful job. 
First we told just who Hawes was, the American designer. 
Then we went into details about my retail shop with reprints 
of Fontanne and Hepburn and socialites wearing my clothes. 
We related how Lord and Taylor had called for my wares, 
how I had done this and that small job for wholesalers. Fi- 
nally, we told them, I had broken down and here oh here 
were Hawes clothes for all the world to have. Here, at N. H. 
Nibs, was a new fall line of Elizabeth Hawes originals at 
prices anyone could afford. 

We completed the job by showing the stores how to ad- 
vertise the clothes, reprinting copies of my ads, and by tell- 
ing them how to instruct the sales force to sell the clothes. 

I finished up the first line the end of June, 1933. We had 
redecorated the showroom which was previously one of the 
more sordid sights, beige walls, beige shades, brown wooden 
partitions between the tables where the buyers had sat at 
brown wooden tables on brown wooden chairs and looked 
over a brown rug at "women's dresses." 

In the wholesale business, each buyer, or group of buy- 
ers, is separated from his neighbor by some sort of screen, 
curtain or partition. This is so he can't see what the other 
buyer is buying, supposedly. Actually, everyone knows what 
everyone else is doing because the salesmen all tell. The par- 
titions serve the useful purpose of making the buyer concen- 
trate on the clothes instead of the other customers. 

I desperately called in Ted Muller who does all my dec- 
orating, pried a few hundred dollars out of Mr. Nibs. Ted 
got Venetian blinds which looked clean and white, painted 
the walls yellow, painted the entrance hall brown and put a 

220 



couple of white leather chairs in it and one little glass topped 
table. We added some orangey curtains to the windows and 
although it was not entirely what our hearts desired, it did 
look as if there might possibly be some dress there which 
hadn't been designed eighteen years before. 

Ted had his troubles which are worth mentioning because 
they are so perfectly indicative of Seventh Avenue technique. 
Everything which was finally decided upon, a chair, a table, 
a blind, a piece of curtain material, had to be gotten cheaper 
through some friend of some salesman or relative of N. H. 
Nibs. 

The net result is what always comes of that method of 
buying. Everything was very late in coming. We did not 
quite manage to finish the decorating by the time the clothes 
were to be shown. And each individual item was a little 
wrong. Days were spent getting a certain curtain material 
for a nickel a yard less than the regular wholesale price. All 
in all, time being no object in hunting for a cheaper version, 
I am sure an easy $15 was saved on the decorating job, at 
whatever expense of wear and tear on nerves and ultimate 
effect. 

When it was all finished, the sales force complained that 
the brown walls in the entrance were too dark, despite the 
white ceiling. They hadn't previously been exposed to any- 
thing even remotely resembling modern decoration. To cheer 
them up, I brought down a scroll which Noguchi had given 
me, a long white sheet with a most lovely pair of hands done 
on it in wash. Across the hands, completing the design, was 
a swirl of grey paint. 

It all proved most devastating. Several weeks passed be- 
fore anyone dared ask me about it. One day when I was try- 
ing to make friends with these three or four gentlemen who 
were to have the pain and pleasure of selling Hawes' first 

221 



wholesale line, one of them broke down, "Miss Hawes, just 
exactly why is that smudge on those hands?" he asked con- 
fidentially. 

"Why, I don't know," I said. "It completes the composi- 
tion, I suppose." 

"What's the composition?" he bravely asked. 

I considered all the courses I had taken at Vassar in 
French, Dutch, Italian and modern painting. I looked at 
his rather soft face with its quite brutal mouth. "It's ART," 
I said. 

They all looked completely satisfied. Art and fashion 
were two things they never hoped to fathom. Most of them 
know that style is out of date. I can't imagine where Seventh 
Avenue salesmen come from. They are a race all by them- 
selves. Some of them undoubtedly rise by good hard work 
from the stockroom or errand field. They get kicked around 
and if they can take it and still retain an atom of energy, they 
may get to be salesmen. 

A lot of them are related to the boss. Heavens. If Mr. 
Nibs would have just given a check to his relatives every 
month instead of employing them! There were any number 
of them, mostly inefficient, helping to run things. One or two 
of them sold clothes. 

Selling clothes on Seventh Avenue is very special. It 
consists in making friends with the buyers. That is the super- 
stition, at least, on which the selling force operates. 

I've met plenty of buyers, worked with a number. They 
are a lonesome lot. They come into Paris from New York or 
they come into New York from all over the United States. 
They want to be taken to dinner. They have no real friends in 
the cities they must travel through in their buying. 

They want to go to the theatre. They love presents like 
everyone else. But they're not, by and large, I think, open to 

222 



bribery. Mine is not by a long shot, the opinion which moti- 
vates the vast amount of present-giving and entertaining in 
which Seventh Avenue salesmen engage. 

One year when I went freight-boating to Haiti, there was 
one other passenger, a dress salesman from Seventh Avenue. 
I asked him what he was doing on the boat and he explained 
to me that it was between seasons and he was going to buy 
presents for his buyers, perfume. Perfume enters the islands 
of the Caribbean without duty and costs there about half 
what it does in New York. 

He bought a good $300 of perfume, for $150, so he 
saved the price of the trip and, so to speak, lived three weeks 
for nothing on the boat. I helped him take some in on my 
duty-free hundred dollars, and he paid no customs. 

He assured me from my experience at Nibs I am sure 
it is true that he gave every buyer who dealt with him a 
Christmas present to begin with. Then he must entertain her 
when she was in New York. He said he hated entertaining 
out-of-town buyers but if he didn't do it, they'd buy nothing 
from him. 

I think this may be partially true since most dress manu- 
facturers compete only on the matter of price. If the buyer 
can get what she wants in a good many places, she may hu- 
manly incline toward those whose salesmen have given her 
the most in entertainment and presents. 

I suppose the reason that most Seventh Avenue sales- 
men look so brutal is because they're tired of entertaining 
visiting buyers. I expect the reason they know nothing about 
style or fashion is because they give all their attention to 
knowing those buyers and feeding them drinks. 

When the time comes to sell the new line, all they do is 
say, "Mabel, will you go to the Casino with me Friday? I 
think you had better buy that black dress. Haldane's buyer, 

223 



whom I took out last night, bought it this morning. It must 
be good." 

Now the chances are that Mabel knows perfectly well 
whether or not she should buy that black dress. And the 
Haldane buyer would have bought it if she liked it whether 
the salesman had taken her to dinner or not. 

The selling methods of dress salesmen are a source of 
marvel not only to a simple girl like myself but to all of 
those many experts who have ever studied the matter of sell- 
ing in this highly specialized age. It is nothing but tradition 
which governs selling on Seventh Avenue, a tradition which 
belongs to the dear dead past when buyers were another 
species. Thousands of dollars are spent on the entertaining 
and present-giving which might just as well be saved instead 
of being passed on to the public in higher prices. 

The Nibs sales force behaved in the traditional way, and 
my experiences there only served to prove the lack of valid- 
ity in their method. My manager and myself and our promo- 
tional ideas got plenty of buyers into Nibs that first season 
who had never set foot in there before. We gave them no 
presents or entertainment. We gave their advertising depart- 
ments plenty of hoop-la to work with. We showed them quite 
nice clothes. They bought. 

Mr. Nibs' sales went up a couple of hundred thousand 
dollars over the season before. I was the white-haired girl. 
Everybody loved me. 

When the news of the Paris collections came over in 
August, they even reported some of the colors I'd used. All 
my ideas had been correct, even the fabrics. I hadn't done a 
thing which hadn't been shown at Hawes Inc. a couple of 
years before. They thought I was a miracle girl. 

But it didn't last long. 



224 



Gx O0cy an d/ vary ex o 




ONLY a quadruple exposed negative could give the faint- 
est idea of my life from the spring of 1933 for the fol- 
lowing year. Up to then I had been going to work at nine 
and leaving any time from five to seven, yes. But, by com- 
parison, life had been one long vacation. 

225 



All over-lapping, each being discussed while the other 
was being done, came jobs and ideas and Hawes Inc. in a 
torrent of activity. 

The clipping books of ads for that period go something 
like this: 

From Harper's Bazaar, March 1933, "Said Elizabeth 
Hawes to Elizabeth Hawes Lingees are the answer for your 
design for living," an ad for a set of underwear I did to 
promote American Enka Yarn. A Best and Co. ad of an 
evening coat, showing the material of Sidney Blumenthal as 
used by Hawes. "Elizabeth Hawes cuts into cotton for Mar- 
shall Field manufacturers" in Women's Wear, April 7, 1933, 
page announcement of a series of dresses they hired me to 
do to exploit cheap cotton. "Elizabeth Hawes has a way with 
a brim," a little fling into the world of hat designing for 
Lord and Taylor. In August begin the dozens of ads from all 
over the United States, "We Have Clothes by Elizabeth 
Hawes, 9 ' my first designs for N. H. Nibs ; interspersed with 
"The Emporium (or any other store you like) Leads in im- 
portant new accessory fashions for fall" ; "Elizabeth Hawes 
antelope bags," from Smith Co. ; followed by "Appetizers," 
a set of little jackets done for an accessory house; "Elizabeth 
Hawes square bracelet," in the jewelry field. And, in the 
middle of it all, among the underclothes and the bracelets, the 
jaunts to N. H. Nibs daily and the discussions about little 
jackets, in September, 1933, comes a page, printed on Hawes 
stationery: 

We have moved . . . and we have more people to take 
care of you . . . more room to take care of you. On the 
first floor, at last, plenty of space for ordering and fitting 
hats . . . bags of our own design . . . some ready-made 
sport things. On the second floor, a fine large showroom 

226 



etc. ... On the third floor, enough and large enough fitting 
rooms! 

Consider, too, our budget system. You figure out what you 
have that is still good, what you will need for a season, how 
much you have to spend. We wangle it out, clothes hats and 
bags. 

We are open from ten to five . . . except Saturdays . . . 
Miss Hawes may be seen by appointment . . . We cordially 
invite you to come and see our fall collection . . . we enjoy 
showing it to people who appreciate beautiful clothes, whether 
they buy or not. 

The minute I signed up with N. H. Nibs, I set to work 
to enlarge my own business. It was the low point of the de 
pression, but it seemed to me that if, at the same time I began 
to make cheap clothes, I did not make it quite clear to my 
private public that I was going to continue to supply their 
wants in a better and bigger way, I might be swallowed by 
Seventh Avenue. 

I was influenced by several other things. We had out- 
grown our quarters on 56th Street so that we gave not even 
a modicum of comfort to the customers either in ordering, 
trying on or fitting the clothes and hats. 

I thought I could cover the expense of moving by the 
money I would receive from Nibs. Hawes Inc. must grow up 
or die. One can't go on being discovered on one floor forever. 
One will never be discovered by a good many people on one 
floor. 

The latter fact is one of the most interesting things about 
being an expensive dressmaker in New York. You must be 
really expensive. I will outline a conversation to make the 
point. The conversation took place between me and a Mrs. 
X. She was a very attractive young society matron. She was 
not rich at the time. I talked to her about bringing me some 
customers while she looked at the clothes one day. 

227 



"How much is that dress?" she kept asking. 

"One hundred sixty-five dollars," I would answer, or 
$145, or $175, as the case might be. 

"It's funny," she said. "I don't think I have any friends 
who pay those prices." I was quite bewildered. 

"You know," she continued thoughtfully, "all my 
friends either go to Mary Penn and pay $79.50 or they go 
to Hattie Carnegie and don't care what they pay." 

After a good deal of thought, I saw that what she said 
was true. Generally speaking there were a large number of 
women who either bought, to them, inexpensive ready-made 
clothes or were used to paying much higher prices than I 
charged. They were not interested in shopping on one floor 
on 56th Street where they had to stand in line for fittings and 
there weren't enough salespeople to look after them prop- 
erly. 

I saw that, although I had a monopoly on Hawes designs 
and could, therefore, be sure of a certain amount of trade, I 
must begin to compete in services with the "high-class" spe- 
cialty shops of New York or I could not hope to grow. 

I never did over $60,000 a year on 56th Street and this 
was not enough to support me to making the kind of expen- 
sive collection I wanted to indulge in. I wanted to be able to 
use material at $20 a yard and fur and anything my fancy 
craved. 

On the one hand, at Nibs, I was fascinated to see how 
cheaply decent clothes could be made. On the other hand, I 
wanted the opportunity of making what I pleased, regardless 
of price. What the latter involved, I knew. About the former, 
I learned. 

We, Jim Hicks, my manager, Ted Muller, the architect, 
and I, set out to find all the space and air any customer could 
want, and a place for them to park their cars. We found the 

228 



house on 67th Street in late July, after days and nights of 
trailing about the area where traffic is lighter and business 
is permitted. 

The house was, still is, five stories high, about twenty- 
five feet wide, plain gray stone-fronted, high-ceilinged and 
big-windowed. Inside it was all Louis something and we had 
about six weeks to tear out the interior decoration and sim- 
plify. 

With one hand I worked on 56th Street, making up the 
fall collection, with another hand, I filled-in the Nibs line, 
and with my third hand I picked out colors for walls and 
furniture and generally inserted myself into the problems of 
Ted Muller and the contractor. My fourth hand wrote out 
ads and mailing pieces for the fall. 

It was fun, exhausting, devastating fun. We tore out 
moldings and partitions to the despair of the contractor, 
who insisted we were taking everything beautiful out of the 
building. It was a pity I didn't feel like living in the time of 
the Louis' in old France. We could have just swept out the 
place and moved in. However, it had to have three-colored 
walls and Venetian blinds and no mouldings and no carpets 
and be clean and neat and 1933. 

We were approaching our objective with top speed when, 
just ten days before what was to be a gala opening, the 
painters struck all over town. I quite well recall the evening 
Ted and Jim met up with me in a bar near 56th Street to tell 
me the bad news. 

"The place will definitely not be finished for the open- 
ing," they said, over the first drink. 

"Shall we put it off?" we asked over the second. 

"Hell with the paint," we said over the third Tom Col- 
lins, "Let's open anyway." 

We had quite a fine housewarming one night in Septem- 

229 



ber 1933, with canvas on the floor and white plaster walls. 
Downstairs, the decoration consisted of a line of dressmak- 
ers, dummies with signs. "Contractors are unfair to union 
labor." 

This entrance room later, when the strike was finished, 
was painted battleship gray and white and is now the acces- 
sory shop where we sell "Yes and No" gloves, false broc- 
coli to wear in your buttonhole, fuchsia cotton stockings, soft 
bags, belts, scarfs and anything else which strikes our fancy 
including a whistle to be worn on the watch chain of your 
beau when he is not using it to call a taxi. 

The night of the housewarming, my official fall opening, 
the widely winding stairs went up to a brilliant scene. The 
present polished parquet floor was neatly draped with rum- 
pled canvas. The walls, now half -gray, half -beige, were raw 
white plaster which came off quite easily on neat black 
evening clothes. The three windows on the front of the house, 
bare of their future rust curtains, yawned blackly from ceil- 
ing to floor and out into the night. 

Out in the night, beyond the middle window, was the 
first Hawes flag, waving from its unpainted pole, battleship 
gray with my scissors and H tradesmark in white. It still 
waves whenever Hawes Inc. is in residence. 

In place of my blue and rust furniture, my little white 
leather chairs which look so very silly, as if they were danc- 
ing, whenever they get out of order on a busy afternoon, 
there were just rows and rows of brown folding chairs. The 
background, all in all, was stark. 

Upstairs, where offices and fitting rooms would be, there 
was a bar and food. And wandering on up, in those days one 
came to a big room in front, my office, another in the rear 
with a terrace outside it, my bedroom. Above that, two little 
rooms in back housed our houseman and my maid. The whole 

230 



front of the fifth floor was made into one big living room 
where I relaxed for the next four years. Now the top of the 
house is all workroom and I am blessed with one tiny ex- 
maid's room for an office. 

The guests on the night of the housewarming, came pour- 
ing in between ten and ten-thirty, stumbled over the strike 
signs, fell on the canvas floor and generally established 
themselves, drinks in hand, for the show. That season the 
clothes were all named for songs, everything from Rock-a- 
bye-Baby, being a batiste negligee, to the kind of evening 
dress called Blue Moon. 

We always start with sport clothes and go on through the 
day and evening things. Evening shows are most fun because 
the audience are my friends and they don't hesitate to ex- 
press themselves with shouts or boos as the fancy takes them. 

Usually we break the show in the middle with some sort 
of oddity. That time we showed six or eight dresses from 
1925, long waisted and short skirted, and awful enough to 
make you cry to think you ever were seen like that. Thank 
heaven I didn't have to design in those days. 

It usually takes a little over an hour for six girls to show 
about eighty different models, coats, suits, dresses, furs, 
evening clothes, wraps, negligees. I used to suffer terribly 
at my openings and always went upstairs and had a quiet 
drink with the butler until it was over. Now I don't mind so 
much. I simply don't listen to what anyone says about the 
clothes because I knew they all have to say it's wonderful. 

A day or two after an opening I get together with a few 
people who know me well enough to speak their minds and 
am told off for what is bad and patted on the back for the 
good things. By the time you've made some eighteen collec- 
tions of clothes, you get a fairly good critical idea about any 
given collection. Anyway, the customers tell you with orders. 

231 



Practically all the fall 1933 business was done with no 
showroom and no fitting rooms. It took six weeks from the 
time we opened the place before the paint was even on the 
walls. The customers put up with worse inconveniences than 
they'd ever had at 56th Street. It was the beginning of the 
spring 1934 season before we were actually in running 
order. 

I was a full-fledged eouturiere. I could give the service 
of a specialty shop plus that reason for all my work, my own 
designs and nothing else, made to order and to fit and you 
couldn't buy it anywhere else. 

And so came the establishment of policies and the long 
long fight to pay for it all. I learned exactly why expensive 
clothes are so expensive, and why, although shops like 
Hawes have a reputation for being thorough-going thieves, 
it is not necessarily so. 

To explain that I paid plenty for the privilege of becom- 
ing a eouturiere, I will say parenthetically that it took me 
three years to get even. I borrowed and put in as capital 
$10,000 in July 1933, the loan of a kind friend. At the end 
of the first year on 67th Street, June 1934, I had collected 
$12,000 from N. H. Nibs which went into Hawes Inc. I 
showed a loss on the books of $12,000 for operations at 
Hawes Inc. I broke even, therefore, on the books, having lost 
exactly the new capital investment and all I earned on 
Seventh Avenue. 

There are ways of thieving from one's customers in the 
made-to-order dress business. However, in general, one deals 
with a very wary public. 

It is an old adage that the richer people are, the more 
economical they are. People who are used to having a great 
deal of money to spend are not in the habit of throwing it 
away. They may buy yachts, mink coats, country houses and 

232 



Rolls Royces, but they usually only pay what the article is 
worth in a competitive market. They shop around and they 
know the value of what they buy. 

In America it is true there are a number of people who 
have only recently gotten wealthy enough to buy the luxuries 
of life. Of those who can pay, it is they who get cheated. They 
have an idea that they should spend carelessly, not ask the 
price, throw their money around. This kind of customer is 
cheated by some dressmakers and specialty shops, as she is 
cheated by furriers, servants, jewelers, and everyone who 
cares to try. 

This is the kind of customer who does not know a good 
material from a bad one, and by that I mean, what will wear 
and what won't. In general, I might add for the benefit of 
shops which are not, apparently, concerned with the wearing 
qualities of the clothes they sell at any price, that the kind 
of customer who can be cheated often does not care at all 
whether her dress wears or not. 

This leads to the substitution of materials, a more ex- 
pensive one being used in the model than is used for making 
up the order. So, the dressmaker may save a few dollars a 
yard here. 

Secondly, the customer who is cheated is one who doesn't 
apparently care whether or not her clothes fit. Often women 
who spend the most money for clothes in New York, as I have 
said, buy ready-made things at prices from $125 to $250, 
prices for which clothes can be and are made-to-order. 

This baffled me when I first came from Paris to New 
York. Finally I realized two things. One of them is that a lot 
of women in America are just too busy to come for fittings. 
The other is that there are a great number of American 
women who don't know whether their clothes fit them or not 
even when the dress is made to order. 

233 



The latter point used to harass me dreadfully when I 
started my business. I realized that it was a matter of my 
own pride in a number of cases whether the dress which we 
made for a customer fitted or not. She didn't know. I have 
a minimal number of this kind of customer. Most of my cus- 
tomers are women who have had clothes made for them all 
their lives, however young they may be. There is nothing 
much we could put over on them either in the matter of work- 
manship or fitting even if we wanted to. 

There always remains the opportunity to cheat on fit and 
workmanship when a specialty shop deals with customers 
who are not experienced in buying quality in either. I have 
not yet sold expensive ready-made clothes, but I suspect that 
this affords the biggest opportunity for racketeering in the 
specialty shop field if you are not in business for your health. 

Which leads us right into the matter of how prices are 
made on expensive clothes and whether or not the customers 
care what they pay. The base for all pricing is the prime cost 
of the dress plus such expenses as are directly connected with 
the making of the dress. That is, where one is designing and 
making to order, the labor of the sewing girls, the fitting, the 
material which goes into the dress, plus the cost of workroom 
supervision and the designing cost. 

The wages of finishers are not high per girl, $22.50 a 
35-hour week is the base ; $25 is tops. Drapers get up to $45 
a week. The average is about 80 cents an hour. Fifty-five 
hours of draping, and sewing makes an average Hawes 
dress, and a labor cost of $44. To this must be added a cut- 
ting and fitting charge which is about $16.45 per dress, mak- 
ing a total of $60.45 for direct labor charges. 

Add the cost of material which seldom goes under $3 
a yard, although, as I have indicated it may go down to a 
dollar if your customer will take it. On the other hand, it goes 

234 



up to $10 on the slightest provocation, and not infrequently 
up to $20. Take $5 per yard for the stuff of an average dress 
and seven-and-a-half yards as the necessary amount if the 
designer is Hawes and not given to saving anything. $37.50 
for material plus $60.45 for labor gives $97.95 for the 
actual dollars and cents directly spent for one given dress. 

This is the prime cost, to which must be added about 
$16.71 for production overhead, workroom manager's sal- 
ary, stockroom costs, muslin, pins, sewing machines, and I 
would say $15 for designing. This last is an estimated figure 
since I can only use figures from my own business. I own my 
business and therefore the salary I draw from it pays me not 
only for designing but for selling, promoting, managing, and 
one hundred other things which I do. If we employed a de- 
signer, she would undoubtedly get more per dress than I do. 
At any rate, the prime cost of $97.95 per dress, plus design- 
ing and production overhead gives us a total direct cost for 
a dress of $129.66. 

To this must then be added the indirect overhead, the 
space which is paid for by the square foot, the salespeople 
who may stand idle half the time, waiting for the arrival of 
their special customers, the models who show clothes for six 
hours straight one day and read books half the days of the 
year, the light, the heat, the secretaries, the bookkeepers. All 
of these necessary adjuncts to an expensive clothing shop are 
idle half the year. But they cannot be put on ice. They must 
be paid whether there are customers or not. 

The indirect overhead, divided and assigned to each 
dress, is apt to be a little less than one-third of the selling 
price. On the type dress I am using as an example, the over- 
head charges would be about $59.61, making a grand total 
cost to Hawes of $189.27. Our selling price on such a dress 
would probably be $195. 

235 



It is quite easy to see that, where a material costs $20 
and there may be one hundred hours of labor on a dress, or, 
as is usually the case, on a suit, the selling price gets up to 
$400 without the slightest effort. It costs plenty to carry on 
a craft business, an individual, special, one-at-a-time affair. 
In a world becoming attuned to mass production, it sounds 
like thievery by the time one arrives at the selling price. 

As I have indicated, one can cheat on the material and 
the workmanship. One can also cheat up to a certain point 
on the final selling price. It is the rare specialty shop where 
the prices are absolutely set. 

In shops where there is not a set price, what different 
women pay for made-to-order clothes varies enormously. In 
one shop, for instance, the saleswomen are given the lowest 
possible figure at which the dress may be sold. It is then the 
business of the saleswoman to give whatever price she sees 
fit to her customer. She will get a larger percentage on the 
sale for every dollar she gets over the low price. 

I discovered all this by hiring salespeople from time to 
time from other shops. One of them came to me very gaily 
one day and said, "I just sold the blue satin dress for $325!" 

"But, it's $275," said I. 

"Mrs. Y bought all her clothes from me when I was at 
Zim's," she said. "She's always paid me that for clothes." 

I explained that all Hawes clothes were marked in plain 
figures and that was the price and nobody could do anything 
about it. I developed such a definite policy in order to cut 
out the hours of dickering which usually go with selling ex- 
pensive clothes to begin with. The hours it wastes cost enough 
to cut the prices at the outset. 

What is more, it has always been a mystery to me why 
customers put up with the game of indefinite prices. Most of 
them don't know it exists to be sure, but some of them do. I've 

236 



discussed the price-switching policy of certain shops with 
friends of mine who know perfectly well it goes on. They 
just seem to think that they always get a low price. 

Even where a specialty shop sells expensive ready-made 
clothes, prices are subject to change under pressure. Often 
one's saleswoman seems to be able to cut off ten or fifteen 
dollars on a couple of $79.50 dresses. 

This is partly because, in pricing expensive ready-made 
clothes, the specialty shop takes a good walloping mark-up 
to cover future marking-down on dresses which don't sell. It 
is also because some specialty shops just deliberately bank 
on their customers not finding out that the little navy blue 
print exists in a more crowded place for $39.50 while they 
are selling it at $49.50 or more. 

A favorite trick of the specialty shop is very special sales. 
At the end of the season, the ready-made shop is always stuck 
with a certain amount of unsold stock which must be marked- 
down and cleared out. Here are bargains. To the bargains 
are often added cheap dresses which are bought for the sale. 
These are passed off on the thoughtless public as mark- 
downs. In reality they are fully marked-up to meet the real 
mark-downs in price. 

My manager has taken issue with me on the matter of 
my trying to explain how prices are made. He says the public 
will never understand. But I have a method in my madness. 
Not only do I believe that women who buy clothes made to 
order are seldom cheated, but I also feel that they have every 
right to understand why their clothes cost what they do. I 
wish that women who buy expensive ready-made clothes 
would realize that they would get far more for their money 
if they bought clothes made to order. 

My manager has prepared a chart which shows in figures 
what I have said in words. We have given the history of an 

237 



average Hawes dress on the left side. On the right side, we 
show the incomplete but authentic history of a ready-made 
dress which retails for the same price. (See page 239.) 

I cannot quote the name of the manufacturer whose fig- 
ures are used since he finds the comparison to Hawes figures 
somewhat odious. Anyone who has any reason for question- 
ing the ready-to-wear figures may write me a personal letter 
and receive adequate reassurance as to their authenticity. 
The figures on retailers' gross profit are from the National 
Retail Dry Goods Association. 

Since we were unable to obtain authentic figures on the 
exact mark-up and selling expenses of a specialty shop sell- 
ing $195 dresses, we thought better to carry our comparison 
only through the prime gross profit. 

The chart makes one point of fundamental importance 
to any woman who buys expensive clothes, Hawes figures 
being typical of all custom-made shops. The actual labor and 
material which goes into our $195 made-to-order dress is 
$97.95. The actual labor and material which go into a 
$195 ready-made dress, sold by a manufacturer to the re- 
tailer who resells it to the customer, is $77.29. 

Even the gross profit of Hawes Inc. is slightly under that 
of the retail ready-made store. The services which the aver- 
age made-to-order shop gives are usually greater than those 
given by the ready-made specialty shop. In addition to these 
simple facts of life, the woman who is fortunate enough to 
find a designer from whom she can buy directly assures her- 
self of the individuality of her costume. When she buys 
ready-made clothes, she is seldom protected. When she buys 
made-to-order clothes from a shop which sells French de- 
signs, she is almost certain to meet herself a dozen times a 
day. 

I do not think that any expensive dressmakers overcharge 

238 



very much. Making-to-order is a hazardous business, full of 
pitfalls, extra fittings, people changing their minds and what- 
not. I am in full agreement with Miss Mary Lewis' principle 
that people make all their money on Fords. The dressmaker 
is pretty well held to a price by what the market will bear 
and the market of rich women who spend real money for 
clothes will bear just about what those clothes cost to make 
and sell. 



HAWES 

CUSTOM-MADE 
CLOTHES 



EXPENSIVE 

READY-TO-WEAR 

CLOTHES 



Retail Selling Price $195.00 
Prime Cost (material and 

labor) 97.95 

Prime Gross Profit $97.05 
Designing & Production 

Overhead 31.71 

Gross Profit $65.34 

Selling & General Expenses 59.61 

Operating Profit $5.73 



to Retail 

Selling 

Price 

100.00% 
50.23% 
49.77% 
16.26% 

33.51% 
30.57% 

2.94% 



* Retailers' Gross Profit 
Manufacturers' Prime 
Gross Profit 

Prime Gross Profit 


$70.40 
47.31 


36.10% 
24.26% 


$117.71 


60.36% 



to Retail 

Selling 

Price 

$195.00 100.00% 

77.29 39.64% 

$117.71 * 60.36% 



The most important conclusion to be drawn from the fig- 
ures which I have given here is that any woman, whatever 
her income, who can scrape together enough to buy her 
clothes made-to-order receives more in quality of material 
and workmanship than the woman who buys ready-made 

239 



clothes. It is perfectly obvious that both the manufacturer 
and the retailer take a profit and pay certain overhead ex- 
penses from the ultimate selling price of the ready-made 
dress. Therefore the selling price of the ready-made dress 
will be relatively higher to the consumer than the selling 
price of a dress which is made and sold by the same firm. 

I wanted to insert a chart for the benefit of the women 
who can neither buy custom-made clothes from a couturiere 
or expensive clothes from a ready-made or made-to-order 
specialty shop. We were unable to get accurate figures. On 
the basis of general store figures for department stores which 
sell dresses at $15.75 to $29.50, plus figures which we could 
obtain from manufacturers who make those clothes, it ap- 
pears that the $29.50 dress contains more labor and material 
in proportion to its retail price than the ready-made dress 
which sells for $195. However, the $29.50 dress contains 
less labor and material, in relation to its retail price, than the 
Hawes dress. 

The cheap wholesaler gets his profits by selling a very 
large volume, multiplying his 50-cent profit over and over 
again. The specialty shop profits by its large mark-up where 
it is run well and doesn't have to do too much marking-down. 
The couturiere profits chiefly in the satisfaction of being able 
to eat while she has the pleasure of dressing stylish ladies in 
beautiful clothes. 

I do not mean to suggest that I, Elizabeth Hawes, can 
never make a great deal of money some year in my business. 
When times are prosperous and women spending freely, they 
triple their orders and the overhead does not go up very 
much. But I had better save what I make that year, because 
come a bad season and orders are cut while the overhead 
goes on just the same. 

Oh, I fully understand why Mr. Kraemer wouldn't take 

240 



a couturiere for a gift. About specialty shops which sell 
ready-made, I think he is partially mistaken. I once saw a big 
New York specialty shop's statement for 1929. The owner 
did made-to-order and ready-made retail, and also had a 
wholesale business. 

To begin with, she had crossed off something like $100,- 
000 in bad debts as a total loss. But she showed a good deal 
more than that in net profit. Most of it later evaporated in the 
stock market, but that wasn't the fault of the clothing busi- 
ness. 

Such has Hot yet been my fate, either the beginning or 
the end of it. I set up certain policies, but all to do with de- 
signing and dressmaking, that treacherous business. The 
policies included selling as I outlined it in the beginning of 
Hawes-Harden, as far as I was able to get good salespeople. 

One of our rules is, "Always be polite to customers." 
Sounds silly? It is not at all a rule of most expensive shops. 
Indeed, a young lady from a competitor's shop said to me 
lately, "Oh, we are always rude to our customers." I didn't 
hire her. 

Sometimes we just have to tell people we don't have what 
they want. That passes for being rude when they don't real- 
ize that I paid $22,000 one year for the privilege of getting 
to be a couturiere in New York. I reserve the right to refuse 
to put a diamond button on a dress one season and stick 
diamond buttons all over a dress the next season if I want to. 

Even now people come in and express surprise that there 
are no French models and seem rather insulted about it. They 
can get them any place, we say. 

"Haven't you got a single puffed sleeve?" They'll say 
one season. 

"They're all over the place," we say. 

241 



"Haven't you got any sharkskin?" they say. 

"We don't use artificial silk," we say. 

"I don't want to wear my dresses short," they say. 

"Fine," we respond, "We'll make you some long ones." 

"Take all the fullness out of this skirt," they say. 

"Ok," we say, "but you'll feel awfully silly in it next 
year." 

"What do I care about next year?" they answer. 

"Any dress which isn't in style for at least three years 
isn't any good to begin with," we say. 

"I have all the clothes you've made me for the last three 
years," they say. "I don't need any this season." 

"Wonderful," we say, "That's the biggest compliment 
we could have." 

"I want the black dress that Mrs. Young bought," they 
say. 

Then we have to call up Mrs. Young and see if she minds. 
If she minds, we lose the other sale. That's just one of my per- 
sonal idiocyncracies. 

Soon when they ask for what we haven't got, we'll be 
able to say, "That's the kind of clothes that Mark makes. 
Why don't you go there?" Soon, depressions permitting, 
there will be many couturiers in New York, designing their 
versions of style, each making clothes for his group of 
women. 

Muriel King makes her kind of clothes. Valentina makes 
her kind of clothes. Hawes makes her kind of clothes. There'll 
be an American couture one day, for the made-to-order lady. 

In case anyone should be under any illusions at this point 
concerning what kind of clothes I think the couture of any 
country should furnish its clients, I print below a letter which 
Patricia Collinge wrote me about a dress. 

242 



Dear Liz : 

About four years ago I went into your establishment to buy 
a hat. That's all I wanted and if I had minded my own business, 
that's all I would have got. But I had to go snooping and what 
happened? Blue Mazurka, that's what happened. It was the 
loveliest dress I ever saw in my life and it still is, Elizabeth, 
and that is what seems to be the trouble. Because after all, that 
was four years ago, and I ought to be through with it by now, 
oughtn't I? But it hangs together, darling. It definitely stays 
put, and it's wearing me down. It's wearing me and I'm wearing 
it, and there you are. And don't give me any back talk about 
giving it away because you just don't know. You see, my hus- 
band likes it. So I needn't go on with that. I like it, too. But 
not all the time. 

The first two years were fine. I loved the dress. I used to think 
up places to go where I wasn't even invited just so I could 
wear it. And the third year wasn't so bad, though the reason 
I was late for so many dinner parties, if anyone cares, was be- 
cause Jim would catch me in some little number I had bought 
for relief and I would have to take it off at the last moment and 
put on Blue Mazurka. He said I looked right in it. And I felt 
right in it, too. A little nauseated maybe, but right. And then 
I had my tonsils out, and that gave me a rest. 

But the fourth year got me. It wasn't that I didn't try. I would 
buy something else and put it on and Jim would say, "Aren't 
you going to wear Blue Mazurka" and I would scream. Then 
it got so I couldn't buy anything else. I would go into simple, 
defenseless shops and try on dress after dress and Blue Mazurka 
would materialize in the mirror and I would say thank you very 
much but I have a dress and walk out. Then I thought of setting 
fire to Blue Mazurka, and then I would think of what Jim would 
say and then I would think of setting fire to Jim. Then I tried 
not wearing evening dress at all but that only got me pointed 
at, and then I tried staying home, but I would find myself in 
the closet staring at Blue Mazurka and muttering, and I knew 
no good would come of that. 

Then I tried going to Europe and leaving Blue Mazurka be- 
hind, but at the last minute Jim walked in and looked in my 

243 



closet and said, "You're not going without that are you?" 
So I took it to Europe. 

And now I'm back and so is Blue Mazurka, and even the sea 
fogs haven't hurt it. Just freshened it up, really. It's as bright 
as a dollar, and I can't stand it. I'm not the woman I was, and 
four years is enough. 

So will you do something for me? Will you take it back 
and keep it somewhere and will you look at it sometimes and 
think of me and see if you can't do something about making 
clothes that won't wear quite so passionately and will go just 
a little out of style. Because there can be reason in everything 
and even the War lasted only four years. 

But at least don't make any more clothes like Blue Mazurka, 
and if you do, don't let me buy them. Because I know what's 
going to happen ; I'll be coming back for more. Because don't 
misunderstand, I like them. I like them very, very much. Hawes 
clothes, forever in fact, and believe me, Elizabeth, forever is 
right. 

Lovingly, 
PAT COLLINGE 

Miss Collinge was only on her second year of the Blue 
Mazurka when Mr. Nibs helped me to purchase my ivory 
tower. While he was doing that, he was teaching me a lot of 
things about the fate of the ready-made lady. 



244 




WHILE we were moving into, decorating, policy-fixing 
up on 67th Street, my inexpensive clothes were busy 
going out all over the U.S.A. from N. H. Nibs. 

I cared about those clothes. I cared so much that I got 
Lord and Taylor to let me write my own ad when they first 

245 



showed them. It appeared on a full page of a New York 
paper, the end of August 1933. It was surrounded by 
sketches of Hawes clothes for $15.75 and $29.50. I was 
proud of the clothes. My copy went like this: 

"Skol . . . This is a respectful dedication of my first real 
collection of ready-made clothes to a number of delightful 
people who have never been able to afford my custom-made 
prices . . . but have kept on wishing they could. I finally routed 
myself out of 67th Street for a spell . . . and over to Seventh 
Ave. to see what could be done with all those machines. I had 
a couple of knits run up for sweaters, invented a wooly silk, 
twisted up a skein of yarn . . . and prayed. And I say, it's 
a miracle how clothes can be sewed up (and not in sweat 
shops) out of materials which please even my spoiled tastes 
(I'm used to paying $10 a yard) . . . and sell for $22.50 (up 
and down) . . . and be really good clothes. These clothes are 
not intended for the whole female population. They're for 
those special people who wail aloud in a world of diamond 
buttons for a good solid brass shoe hook . . . who prefer an 
innocent twist of yarn to a satin bow . . . who may want to 
be different but know that all good clothes are classic. These 
clothes are for the year of our Lord 1933 . . . for college . . . 
football games . . . shopping . . . working. I've designed 
a couple of bags which aren't just old leather envelopes. If you 
don't like the Hawser scarf and cap, you're just not the Hawes 
type and can relax about the whole business! So have fun . . . 

(signed) ELIZABETH HAWES 

I meant that copy. I was excited by mass production. 
The models looked attractive and I thought to myself that 
many of my most particular custom-made clients would 
have been glad to wear them. 

I ordered a few for myself. The jersey two-piece things 
were very comfortable. The skirt had to sit in my waistline 
and there was enough stretch in the back and sleeves to take 
care of driving the car. The silk dresses caught me in odd 

246 



places, although they looked as if they fit. I had the sleeves 
taken out at Hawes Inc., but there wasn't enough material 
across the back to ever get them in right. 

The sight of twenty identical Hawes models hanging on 
a rack when the stock began to come in for the orders upset 
me a little. But I hastily reflected that most of the women 
who bought them would never meet. 

More upsetting was the fact that the color combinations 
began to go sour almost immediately. There was a brown 
and blue-green knit in the collection which came in, hundreds 
strong, in brown and yellow-green. I went to apprise Mr. 
Nibs of this dreadful fact. 

He said the buyers never noticed those things and I 
shouldn't worry. I said it was hideous, whether the buyers 
noticed it or not. He told me to relax. 

This sort of thing continued unabated and apparently 
the buyers did not notice. They didn't even notice if Mr. Nibs 
ran out of one material and was forced to substitute another. 
Sometimes I wonder whether or not, in spite of the fact that 
Mr. Nibs and the buyers were really too busy to care about 
a color combination being distinctly off, the public didn't 
consciously or unconsciously react by not buying. 

Some months later when the buyer was marking down 
those brown and yellow-green knits, she could hardly be ex- 
pected to remember that they bore little or no resemblance 
to the model from which she had ordered. She probably just 
said, "Damn the public. They always used to buy brown 
and green." 

There seems to be a decided tendency in the world of 
mass produced clothes to blame everything on the public. 
There was, for instance, that insignificant little matter of 
whether or not the clothes fit the public. It always seemed to 
me that Mr. Nibs, or maybe it was Mr. Meyer, had a definite 

247 



idea, conceived eighteen years ago, of just how women 
wanted to feel in their clothes. 

First, as I have already said, all the clothes were too tight 
across the back, too tight by my standards. It is perfectly 
possible that in the past women liked their dresses tight 
across the back. I know that it used to be the thing to fit 
sleeves into very tight armholes. Some of the older women 
whom I dress prefer their sleeves fitted that way. 

However, the younger generation drives cars, types, 
throws balls, and is otherwise active in its clothes. I pointed 
out all this to Mr. Nibs but we never did see eye to eye on 
the matter. Mr. Meyer had been using the same patterns for 
years and saw no reason for change. 

I had an uneasy feeling that if I had pressed the point 
to the extent of making a real row or threatening to leave they 
would just tell me, as they often did, that I was accustomed 
to dealing with a very specialized clientele. "Oh, the women 
you dress . . . ," they'd say. Well, the women I dress are 
made just like other women. There's one thing they're very 
stubborn about. They want to be able to move easily in their 
clothes. 

I finally got rumors from interested friends that the Nibs- 
Hawes clothes did not fit when they tried them on in stores. 
I hied me into Lord and Taylor and got the assistant buyer. 
When I asked her about it, she said, "All the clothes are 
nearly a size too big. We just pay no attention to the marked 
size but see to it that the customer is fitted." 

She seemed quite unperturbed. Lord and Taylor have 
a relatively intelligent type of buyer and salesgirl. In the 
Middle West, I suppose the salesgirls tried to sell size twelve 
Nibs-Hawes dresses to size twelve customers and everything 
looked very odd indeed. 

I took up the matter of the fit of the clothes regularly 

248 



once a week, thinking that possibly the steady drip of the 
idea would finally penetrate and bring action. When I left 
Nibs, after a year, the last thing I did was to mention that the 
clothes didn't fit. A year later, I called upon him, being in 
the neighborhood, and said it was a pity the clothes hadn't 
fitted. He had still "been in business for eighteen years." 

Three years after I left him, I saw him again and he 
made a very odd remark. He didn't attach it to anything 
but he must have seen that "fit" look coming over my face. 
He said, "You know, Mr. Meyer has left. You know, Mr. 
Meyer cost me thousands of dollars." 

There are ways to save a part of the thousands of dol- 
lars which go out the windows of the Seventh Avenue sky- 
scrapers. A small example again brings up the matter of 
knits. 

The knitted clothes they were knitted blouses worn 
with woven wool skirts which I designed for Nibs sold 
very well. The knitted material of which the blouses were 
made came from a number of places. There was one very 
nice young man who worked with me and made up several 
things according to my ideas of weave and color. He went 
to a lot of trouble about it and I was awfully glad when 
I saw the material selling. 

One day, a month or so after we had started delivering 
orders, the young man called on me and said, "What hap- 
pened to that striped knit I made up from your design? 
It was never re-ordered." 

"What?" I asked. "Why that sold. I know it did." 

"Mr. Nibs," I found him after the boy had left. "How 
did it happen McGowan never got an order on the striped 
knit? That sold very well, I thought." 

Mr. Nibs looked at me and blinked a little. Mr. Nibs, 
incidentally, was a highly esteemed member of the organ- 

249 



ization which Joe Rosenthal had formed to stop copying. 
The copying which they stopped was exclusively limited to 
the dresses which they manufactured. Let the fabric manu- 
facturers and the French look after themselves. 

Mr. Nibs, at the moment I asked about the knit, looked 
slightly like a small boy caught in a neighbor's apple or- 
chard. "Isn't that one of the knits you designed?" He asked. 

"Yes, but so what?" 

"Why, I got Seldun to make that up at a better price. 
Of course, if it had been a design you'd picked out of Mc- 
Gowan's line, I wouldn't have done it." 

I never argued with Mr. Nibs about that. McGowan had 
spent some time and money making my original idea into 
a knit. Someone else could copy it cheaper on the other 
side of the river in an old loft in Hoboken. I'd been there. 
Seldun couldn't work out a new design for me, but he could 
copy anything. 

I suppose the difference in price between the original 
McGowan knit and Seldun's copy paid for a few of the 
dresses which finally got sent back to Nibs because they 
didn't fit. A lot of the rest of them were paid for by artificial 
silk. 

Mr. Nibs and I had an ever recurring battle about artifi- 
cial silk. I don't object to artificial silk on principle. I object 
to it because one never can tell what's going to happen to it. 
Sometimes it wears. Sometimes it stretches. Sometimes it 
shrinks. Sometimes it cleans and often it washes. 

One year I made a dress of artificial silk in Hawes Inc. 
We sold seven of them at about $145. I took back seven of 
them. The material went into ribbons when it was cleaned. 
The manufacturers say it cleans if you know what you are 
doing. Unfortunately, even if one handed out a pedigree with 
every dress, many cleaners still wouldn't know what to do 

250 



about it. The pedigree would be lost. Somebody would hope- 
fully wash your artificial silk dress. 

All in all, I consider it a most undependable fabric, 
whether it's rayon or acetate. The public doesn't understand 
what it is. Why do the manufacturers keep their customers 
in such a fog about the whole thing? If you asked ten ordinary 
customers, "What is Viscose? What is Celanese? What is 
American Enka Yarn? you would get the answer, "Oh, 
they're all a kind of silk." 

They are trade names for artificial silk. Some of them 
are made of rayon, some of acetate, the two divisions of that 
family. I understand that there is an artificial silk in exist- 
ence which wears forever. I do not doubt it. It is not on the 
market. 

Nearly half of the dress advertisements in the New 
Yorker and in Fashion magazines are showing artificial silk 
dresses. They appear to be ads for the merchandise of large 
department stores. They bear a little asterisk after some 
trade name which refers you down to a small sentence: "Ce- 
lanese . . .* Reg. U.S. Pat. Off." "Salyna . . .* Spun 
rayon and cotton." 

Nobody has ever seen fit to try very hard to tell the public 
about artificial silk: that it is a by-product of munitions; 
that it comes in many grades, some of which wear, others of 
which do not; that one of your artificial silk dresses may last 
forever and another fall apart at the first cleaning or shrink 
to nothing at the first washing; that the artificial silk com- 
panies are very rich. 

They are so rich that they pay for the store advertising 
which bears the trade names of their products in many cases. 
They are so rich and they do so much advertising that prac- 
tically no fashion writer would dare to question their prod- 

251 



uct's quality. No magazine or newspaper could afford to risk 
losing that much advertising. 

They are so rich that they employ Fashion for large 
sums to make new weaves for them, design pretty clothes 
in their material, help them tell the world that it is chic to 
wear their fabrics, help them get the public so bawled up 
it doesn't know whether it's all silk and a yard wide or all 
artificial silk and liable to shrink to twenty-seven inches. 

My conversations with fabric manufacturers since I de- 
cided to use absolutely no artificial silk in Hawes Inc. are 
very revealing. One year they said that only artificial silk 
could be made dull and that all chic fabrics were dull. That 
was the year that if you spilled a drop of water on the dull- 
ness of your artificial silk, it left an irremovable spot. The 
next year, the fabric did not spot. It was also being made in 
all real silk. 

Another year they said that only artificial silk could have 
the requisite shine to be chic. Even when you showed them 
the requisite shine on real silk, they shook their heads and 
just looked away and said, "It isn't the same." 

Finally I decided that I would use artificial silk in Hawes 
Inc. if any manufacturer would guarantee me not only the 
price of the material in the dress if it went wrong, but also 
the price of the labor. Hawes Inc. takes back dresses which 
go wrong for any reason which is conceivably our fault. I 
feel that if the fabric which I have chosen for the dress will 
not clean or shrinks while hanging in the closet, it is my 
fault. 

I have not, in four years, been able to find a manufac- 
turer who would completely guarantee me any piece of ar- 
tificial silk. I have found a number of manufacturers who, 
in the privacy of my office, tell me, "Well, I think you're 

252 



right. You make such expensive clothes. They really should 
wear. Although I shouldn't think it was good business." 

One day this fall a very minor salesman who had been 
selling silks for various companies for years tipped the whole 
matter off. He looked very solemn as he told me about the 
old days when you just sold plain silk, all real silk. It wore. 
It didn't change every season in weave. Business was stable. 
He didn't know what the world was coming to now. Nobody 
cared about quality anymore. "I always say, Miss Hawes, 
there ought to be some difference between cheap clothes 
and expensive ones." 

I, myself, think that if you pay $3.75 for a dress, you 
might possibly expect it to wear only for a short time. Even 
that isn't necessary, however. There's always that old friend 
of the family, cotton. It's cheap enough. Everybody in the 
United States has had a silk dress by now. 

At any rate, the idea is that everyone wants silk and that 
practically everyone gets artificial silk and maybe it's satis- 
factory and maybe it isn't. My quarrel with Mr. Nibs was 
on that point. 

There was a certain artificial silk, a good name for one 
of them would be Notatal silk, which cost $1 a yard and of 
which Mr. Nibs was very fond. It was supposed to be wash- 
able. It wasn't. I found some pure silk for $1.15 a yard 
which would wash and, although it didn't have the weight 
of the Notatal silk, it was really nice material. 

Hastening to Mr. Nibs, I said, "Look, here's some pure 
silk for only $1.15 a yard. It will really wash. Can't we sub- 
stitute it for Notatal?" 

Mr. Nibs was quite irritated with me. We'd been carry- 
ing on this battle for several months. I had spent consider- 
able time locating my cheap pure silk. "Miss Hawes," he 
said, "will you listen to me? Last year I sold twenty-five 

253 



thousand dresses in Notatal silk. Only five hundred of them 
came back. It is not profitable for me to pay the extra fifteen 
cents a yard." 

Knowing American women as I do, the middle class who 
pay $15.75 for most of their dresses, I was able to complete 
the story of Notatal silk. It did not wash. Twenty-five thou- 
sand women had washed it. Twenty-four thousand five hun- 
dred of them had then thrown out the dress. Five hundred of 
them had returned it to the store from which it came and 
gotten their money back. 

You see, the store won't fuss too much if you're right 
because the store throws it back on the manufacturer. If Mr. 
Nibs still made a profit after refunding the money for five 
hundred dresses, what difference did it make to him what 
happened to the other twenty-four thousand five hundred? 
Running any business is just figuring out what the traffic 
will bear. American women bear a lot. 

Of course, at the same time that Mr. Nibs was thriftily 
saving his fifteen cents, Mr. Meyer was quietly and well- 
meaningly, according to Mr. Nibs' later confession, losing 
thousands of dollars one way or another. The salesmen were 
spending some more giving presents to buyers and taking 
them to dinner, while my manager and I were frothing at 
the mouth over it and getting the buyers to come in by a few 
direct talks. 

Mr. Nibs was constantly reiterating his two pet ideas. 
He had been in business for eighteen years and nobody was 
in business for his health. And I was paving the way for 
teaching myself a big lesson. 

Mr. Nibs used to try from time to time to suggest little 
things to me about designing wholesale clothes but he never 
could give any logical reasons for his ideas. For instance, 
I made dresses without belts, just fitted in at the waist. 

254 



Mr. Nibs said that all wholesale dresses had belts. He 
was big enough to give in, however, when I asked him why 
and he found he didn't know. 

To my surprise, after we had delivered numberless 
dresses without belts, buyers began to write in and ask to 
have belts sent along. Mr. Nibs was very triumphant about 
this but still he could give no reason. I saw that there must 
be more to this problem that met the eye of a custom-made 
dressmaker. 

I went to visit the den of another wholesaler I knew, 
one who made evening dresses. He let me look at his line 
because I worked in a sportwear house so he knew I wouldn't 
copy anything. I saw innumerable dresses without belts. 

"Do you make dresses without belts?" I said, hopefully. 

"Oh, we show them without belts," he said. "They are 
designed to be worn without a belt. But we never deliver a 
dress without a belt They can't be sold. Don't fit." 

A great light burst upon me. It was not as Mr. Nibs in- 
sinuated, that the public were fanatical on the matter of 
belts. The public merely wanted to give a semblance of fit 
to itself about the waist. As no two size twelve women have 
the same waist measure, the simple way out of the whole 
difficulty is to hitch in the extra inches with a belt. 

I was glad to find that there was a manufacturer who 
had figured out the answer. I have always felt a little less 
despair about Seventh Avenue since that historic day. Of 
course the same gentleman immediately asked me whether I 
thought stiff materials were going to go over next season and 
how I felt about lace. 

I always say that some women like stiff materials and 
always will and other women just like soft ones. About lace, 
it packs well and is flattering so why quibble? This is not the 
type of answer that goes over well in the world of fashion. 

255 



It ought to be clear that even when I was in doubt about 
the wisdom of making something for Nibs, I couldn't con- 
sult him about it. Anyway, I thought at that time I knew 
how long it took a style to get from the Duchess of Windsor 
to Rosie O'Grady. I was just confusing style, a really new 
cut, with a red lobster painted onto any old dress. 

So came my downfall. In November, I made Nibs an 
early spring line, known to the trade as "Palm Beach." I 
had been designing and selling clothes with fullness in the 
front of the skirt for a year at 56th Street. I concluded 
I could put it on Seventh Avenue. 

Mr. Meyer didn't quarrel with me since he still thought 
I might not be insane. Mr. Nibs was still leaving me alone. 
The first line had sold. I finished up the Palm Beach clothes 
and flew onto a freight boat to tour the Caribbean, rest, and 
design the spring clothes for Hawes Inc. 

After I left, when the line was shown to the sales force, 
a riot broke out. "We can't sell this stuff," they said. "Who 
in the name of God wants front fullness?" 

My manager did the best he could to calm them. Luckily 
for me, before I got back, the cables had come across from 
the Paris openings. Schiaparelli was showing front fullness. 
The sales force was reassured but nervous. 

Schiaparelli was probably showing front fullness for 
the third season too. It was undoubtedly the first season 
she felt sure enough of it to put in a lot of models which 
weren't tight on the tummy. So it was the first season anyone 
in the trade noticed it. 

The sales force should have been nervous because the 
buyers said it was too new. It was the first season they'd heard 
of it. They didn't know whether the public would like it. 

Just to reassure the buyers, the sales force would employ 
that sales technique of turning pale with fright whenever a 

256 



bit of front fullness came out the door of the model room. 
They would look at the buyer out of the corner of their eyes 
and say, "Errr . . . it's new, isn't it? Umm . . . they say 
Schiaparelli is showing it. What do you think of it?" 

This after a long careful explanation on my part that 
all they had to do about the front fullness was tell the buyers 
that I had been making and selling it for a year up-town very 
successfully; that I was therefore quite sure the public liked 
it, that, if they insisted, Schiaparelli was showing it also. And 
so why not try some? 

No, it is not the Seventh Avenue technique to do what 
it feels right and stand by it. Naturally the buyers turn down 
anything new which is terrifying even those who are trying to 
sell it. 

The buyers have no money for experimenting. The only 
two stores in the United States which did anything with those 
clothes were The Emporium in San Francisco and Lord and 
Taylor in New York. 

All the clothes sold fairly well in Lord and Taylor. They 
sold in The Emporium in San Francisco because there just 
happened to be a girl in the advertising department who 
understood exactly what I meant when I made them. 

She explained, gaily and lightly, about Hawes clothes. 
She said, as I did, that they weren't for everyone. She got 
them segregated so that the people who wanted them didn't 
have to go through eight hundred fancier ones. She used 
light wash line sketches to show them in the papers. She 
managed to notify the proper clientele that the clothes ex- 
isted, just as I had in the New Yorker for Hawes Inc. 

Most of the other stores who bought the clothes adver- 
tised them in a routine way. They mixed them all up among 
dresses with bows and satin ribbons. They didn't notify the 
public that they had very simple clothes with practically no 

257 



trimming for $18.95. In 1933, inexpensive dresses, much 
more than today, were loaded up with trimming. 

It was almost routine for a woman who wanted some- 
thing simple to save up her money until she could pay at 
least $39.50. She didn't dream that what she wanted existed 
for a lower price. It didn't often. It still usually doesn't. 

No woman is under the illusion, I am sure, that she can 
get what is known to the trade as "high style" under $89.50. 

Front fullness was "high style" in 1933. That means 
you could sell it for $175 and maybe for $89.50 but you 
couldn't sell it for $15.75 because these buyers wouldn't 
take a chance on it. 

Life at Nibs became increasingly difficult beginning with 
my front fullness. Nobody believed anything I said after 
that. Front fullness did not come in for another two years 
at $10.75. My timing, alas, was wrong. I was not, as I had 
expected I would be, proving a boon to N. H. Nibs just then. 

I had thought it took about a year from the beginning 
of a new cut in clothes for it to descend to $10.75. It takes 
at least two and a half if not three years. This has nothing 
whatever to do with the taste of the masses. The inexpensive 
public is definitely not involved. The couturier, her custom- 
ers, the manufacturer, and the department store buyer figure 
it out for themselves. 

It takes the couturier a year to be sure that enough women 
want something new like full skirts. The buyers don't pay 
any attention to her try-outs. The first year that they see a 
great many full skirts, they say, "Oh," and only Bergdorf 
Goodman and the expensive specialty shops buy them. 

The next season, a few expensive manufacturers buy 
a few full skirts and show them with great fear. "How do 
you like it?" they ask the buyers in New York. "Do you 
think they will be good?" 

258 



The next season, since everything in Paris has a full 
skirt and has had for a whole year, and Bergdorf has been 
selling them most of that time, the cheap manufacturer says 
to the buyer, "Better get some of those full skirts. Paris is 
full of them." 

The buyer has seen them pictured in Vogue and Harper's 
Bazaar. She may have seen a few on the street, or would have 
if she ever had time to go on the street. She buys them. 

The public is apprised that something new and wonder- 
ful has appeared: the full skirt. At least two years have 
elapsed since the women who could afford couturier prices 
have been able to supply themselves with full skirts. The gen- 
eral public, by the grace of Seventh Avenue and the buyers, 
can now have full skirts. 

There are times, as I have suggested, when something 
creeps into style over a two-year period without the manu- 
facturers even suspecting it. These are the revolutions in 
American style. 

After I had shown myself up as a high-stylist instead of 
a miracle girl, Mr. Nibs began to have long serious talks 
with me about my attitude toward life. "You can be a great 
success down here if you will apply yourself," he'd tell me. 

"Why don't you put in just a few things each season with 
the coming line so the buyers will get used to them and buy 
them the next season?" I'd ask. 

"We are not in business to experiment," he answered, 
"but you will make a great deal of money here if you will 
play along." 

"Play along with artificial silk, I suppose," I'd answer 
sourly. 

I'd fling myself back to 67th Street in a taxi and 
think up a couple of new tennis dresses for the summer line. 
But Mr. Meyer was always too quick for me by that time. 

259 



Mr. Meyer just took to making up models again. He never 
had time to bother with my ideas after front fullness. He was 
always filling in the line with some new number he'd gotten 
by sketch from some vendor of new ideas. 

I wasn't distressed by that. I could probably have learned 
the proper timing and brought things down from Hawes Inc. 
two years after I'd first sold them there. 

I realized, as Mr. Nibs assured me, that we couldn't 
make over the buyers and department stores in the United 
States in a few minutes. The public was in the habit of wait- 
ing for new style. And new style can always wait. 

My deep-dyed despair was due to the fact that Hawes 
clothes were being put out in bad material that wouldn't 
wear and this was not necessary even at $15.75. What is 
more, they didn't fit even that little bit that present-day mass- 
production clothes can fit. 

As despair deepened and Mr. Nibs tried to tell me what 
to design, I took to brandy at lunch to dull myself for the 
ordeal of afternoons on Seventh Avenue. 

I reflected on the Great American Design movement, so 
blithely begun by Lord and Taylor in 1932. Now it was the 
spring of 1934 and one heard comparatively little of the 
American Designers. 

A good many people had originally insisted that there 
weren't any. Then, because Lord and Taylor told them and 
other stores promoted, because dozens of articles were writ- 
ten on American Designers, everyone became convinced 
there must be some somewhere. And, in fact, myriads of 
people turned into American Designers who had never been 
seen before and have never been heard of since. 

What had become of that widely hailed "means of stimu- 
lating business" in the dress industry? I'll tell you what be- 
came of it. It simply wasn't profitable. We were a promotion 

260 



which was dropped because, after a while, either you must 
show a profit or go the way of all flesh. 

This is okay. Nobody objects to the bare facts. The objec- 
tionable feature was that we American Designers were pro- 
moted ahead of our time. We were not chosen because we 
could sell well at $15.75. Most of us had never even seen 
a machine. We were chosen to stimulate business. Most of 
us didn't stimulate it more than a few weeks. 

I should think the whole American Design movement 
was set back several years by being promoted right out of 
grammar school into the world. 

Dorothy Shaver, the vice-president of Lord and Taylor, 
certainly hoped we were ready in 1932. She's batted her 
head against many a stone wall and many a merchandise 
man to put across things the public might want. Sometimes, 
like other people, she's ahead of her time. If the merchan- 
dising men weren't always on hand with their nasty little 
figures, perhaps the stores could do a little more unprofit- 
able experimenting for the public weal. She'll pick up Amer- 
ican Designers again when there are more to pick up. Her 
merchandising men may not be in much of a hurry. 

The American Design movement had to fall on its face 
in 1932. There just weren't enough trained designers. The de- 
signers will learn, finally. They will graduate more quickly 
from their infancy if the stores and manufacturers stop 
throwing France in their faces and will let them use the back- 
ground God gave them. The designers will find out what 
the public wants if the stores will stop concentrating on pro- 
motions for a while and begin to worry about the specific 
needs of their clientele. 

The American Designers will come along, of course, no 
matter who inadvertently tries to kill them. But if they're 
encouraged, given credit when they're good, allowed to ex- 

261 



periment, they'll come along much faster. Of course, as 
everyone knows, experimenting costs money. "Please, Miss 
Hawes. You talk like an artist. We are not in business for 
our health." 

"So I begin to see," I said to Seventh Avenue, "but I 
am, and to hell with you. I'll find some way of keeping in 
business which doesn't drive me to drink." 

So I retired to my ivory tower to cogitate about mass 
production and how to pay the rent 



262 






20 



and <%> 




I SAID very clearly to myself what I thought of Seventh Ave- 
nue but I didn't want to be convinced. One reason was that 
I needed very badly to earn money outside to pay for 67th 
Street. The other reason was that I'd just begun to suspect 
what mass production of clothes might mean. 

263 



What the mass production of clothes did mean ninety- 
nine times out of a hundred was reinforced in my mind, after 
I resigned from Nibs in April of 1934, by Marshall Field 
and Co. They wanted to push off a new wholesale dress busi- 
ness and hired me to come to Chicago for a working week 
and do six models. I went for $1,000 clear profit which 
I needed. I was not hopeful. 

The head of that dress business was not tall or worried 
like Mr. Nibs. He was small, but he was strong and tough. 
He wanted dresses to retail for $10.95 and that was that. 
Quality was necessarily secondary and also style if it meant 
more than 25 cents' worth of trimming. 

I spent most of the time I was in Chicago having my pic- 
ture taken and being interviewed and taken to lunch with 
executives and fashion writers. That was why I was being 
paid. The clothes were not important. They could find some 
designs somewhere. I got six about finished between photog- 
raphers and came back home. 

One of my stipulations in working for them had been 
that the clothes were not to be sold with my name except 
where I consented. That made no difference to the new dress 
business head. My agreement was only oral anyway. They 
not only sold my name to a store in New York by whom I 
didn't care to be advertised, but the advertised dresses looked 
so different from my original conception that I was person- 
ally unable to recognize them as my designs. 

It is almost impossible for me to get into print what I 
feel when I look at a dress which is obviously made of a 
material that you could shoot peas through, that has no shape 
of any kind, but just a belt around the waist so the customer 
can pretend it fits there, the whole topped by some disgusting 
trimming which has been added without reference to the 
line of the dress, which doesn't exist in any case. 

264 



My soul curdles. My stomach turns over eight times per 
second. My spine tightens and I vomit mentally. I don't 
mind seeing people in those clothes because I know that 
most of the time it's all they can get for their price. I mind 
seeing advertisements for those atrocities and that's what 
I saw in the ad of one of New York's largest stores, one 
fine day, with my name attached to it. 

"That'll be about all of that, Hawes," I said to myself* 
"You got your blood money and I hope it was worth it to 
you. In the future there will be no more wholesale clothes 
for you until such a time as you, personally, yourself, can 
see to it that they turn out entirely and absolutely beautiful, 
durable, and functional." 

At the same time I made the dress arrangements with 
Marshall Field, I talked them into letting me have a try at 
really doing fabrics for them. I don't hold the dress affair 
much against Marshall Field and Co. The gentleman with 
whom I had most of my dealings, the head of all their whole- 
sale businesses, was an extremely nice man. 

Every time he said, "Design a dress," I said yes, if I can 
do fabrics. The cotton fabrics I'd helped them promote had 
been merely by means of my dress designs. I wanted to get 
at the actual material. 

Moreover once I thought that the American fabric man- 
ufacturers would one day use me as the French fabric manu- 
facturers use the French couturiers. Eventually the event 
may come to pass. Perhaps one day some American Bian- 
chini will get together with some American Rodier or Du- 
charne and they will begin to back an American couture. 

At the moment, as I discovered, it is not necessary for 
American fabric manufacturers to back me or any of the 
American retail designers. This is not for the reason indi- 
cated by Mr. Kraemer. Whatever kind of fools we may be, 

265 



our foolishness will not see us through the next major de- 
pression without help. 

I think that by the time that depression starts, there 
will undoubtedly be an American couture to be backed. At 
the moment, there is not. However, our mere existence will 
not get us our backing, but economic necessity. Not our 
economic necessity, but that of the American fabric manu- 
facturers. 

Just at the moment, and for many years back, the Amer- 
ican fabric manufacturers have a free source of design, a 
free try-out for fabrics, a free publicity agency. The arrange- 
ments of the French manufacturers with the French cou- 
turiers serve to supply all of these things to American man- 
ufacturers. The American fabric man just sits and waits 
to see what is going to prove good in France. Then he gets 
himself a little piece of it and copies. 

The system of selling American fabrics on Seventh Ave- 
nue is very simple. A salesman comes in and opens his brief 
case. "Here is a material," he says, "that you will want to 
buy. It is a copy of something which Molyneux used this sea- 
son. It is $2.35 a yard. Of course, it is expensive but it is 
pure silk. It's exactly like the French import." 

When it first began to happen to me, I used to nearly 
jump out of my skin with rage. "It's nothing to me what 
Molyneux uses," I'd snap. "Besides that, what business have 
you got copying it?" 

The smarter Seventh Avenue fabric salesmen got so they 
didn't tell me what they were showing me, but that didn't 
make any difference. I had always seen, or bought, and used 
the French fabrics. I'd recognize the copies of them, one 
after the other, sometimes almost as quickly as I'd seen them 
uptown, more often a few months later. 

I am now just sitting and quietly waiting for the day 

266 



when the source of fabric design from France will be cut 
off. It will be a sad day for France, and for the world, be- 
cause when it happens, Flanders Field will be populated 
with freshly dead men again. The French will be fighting 
the Germans or the English or themselves. And eventually 
we will be in it too. 

Before we get into it, the American fabric manufacturers 
will be having good business. They will be needing someone 
to tell them what to make next. They'll be coming around 
for little confabs with American designers who know whether 
they want soft materials, or stiff ones, whether it should be 
dull or shiny, rough or smooth. 

They have little confabs with me from time to time now. 
Sometimes it's free, sometimes I get paid. Usually it's free 
because I can't help them now as much as the French can 
and they get it free anyway. 

Marshall Field paid me for learning how little use I 
could be to a fabric manufacturer who must immediately 
sell millions and millions of yards of each thing. Marshall 
Field is not just a department store in Chicago. Marshall 
Field is an enormous organization of manufacturers who 
sell to each other and to the Field retail store and other retail 
stores. 

One day in May 1934, after I had quit N. H. Nibs, I 
gathered together my thoughts on summer materials and 
set out on a train for Carolina and the fabric mills of Mar- 
shall Field. The ideas were not for that summer, but for the 
next summer, fourteen long months away. 

It takes an endless amount of time to get the first small 
hand-woven samples of a fabric. Some of the hand-woven 
samples are then selected to be made by machine. Finally 
the machine samples are completed. Corrections and recon- 
struction are suggested. Ultimately the sample pieces are 

267 



completed, and must be shown early in February for the 
next summer's clothes. 

I had a very nice time in Carolina. I went down with 
a couple of men from the Field Fabric office. There was to 
be a meeting to discuss fabrics from many angles. 

We were met by a car which motored us miles to a 
couple of small towns. Marshall Field mill towns. I was 
taken through the mills to keep me amused and presently 
we drove away to our final destination, a lodge high on the 
hill above one of the towns. It was long and low and ram- 
bling, brown, shingled and thoroughly comfortable. The 
view was lovely. Away down in the valley were the mills, 
scarcely visible through the trees. Across the valley were the 
mountains of Virginia. 

A meeting began. Those present being the heads of the 
mills, the gentlemen with whom I had traveled down, and 
myself. There was some burning problem which couldn't be 
kept down. We started to talk about fabrics but soon the 
discussion was off into a bout between the Field mill heads 
and the gentleman who bought goods from them for Marshall 
Field in Chicago. 

I stayed in the room as long as I thought permissible and 
garnered some interesting information. The mills sold to 
Marshall Field retail store at a discount, a lower price than 
they sold other retailers. Therefore, it was not profitable for 
the Marshall Field mills to sell to the Marshall Field store. 
Therefore the quarrel: the buyer for the store just ordered 
and ordered but he never got any material delivered to him. 
The mill heads were supposed to run their mills at a profit 
for the owners, and it was not profitable for them to sell to 
the store the owners also owned. 

It all appealed to me as one of the more amusing angles 
on crisis in big industry. I spent two days in Carolina on 

268 



a $200 a day rate and most of the time I was out of the con- 
ferences because they were none of my business. 

I spent about an hour explaining my ideas to the as- 
sembled multitude, telling them what I thought would be 
good for next summer on the basis of what I had used and 
was using and would want to use. They were polite and even 
interested. But they had only one answer to everything. 

"We can't go into production on anything we aren't 
sure we're going to sell a million yards of." 

I saw them deciding what they would go into production 
on. They kept showing me little swatches of material which 
I'd seen before for, let us say, $1.50 a yard. "How do you 
like that?" they'd ask. 

"It's okay, but it's already in existence," I answer. 

"We can put it out for $1.00 a yard," they'd say, and 
put it in the pile for sample making. 

I didn't have any samples for them to copy. I had a lot 
of samples to explain that here was a certain rough yarn 
in this silk which, if it could be duplicated in cotton, should 
give a texture such as would probably be desirable for that 
summer fourteen months away. Of course, the silk was too 
thin, the cotton weave should be tighter, and so on. 

I gave them all my samples and thoughts in written form. 
I came home to New York. 

Some months later, one of them showed up with some 
samples. I couldn't recognize any one of my ideas but there 
among the samples was an exact copy of a silk sample which 
I'd taken along because the twist in the yarn was new and 
would produce something different by way of texture how- 
ever it was woven. I had my usual moment of horror at see- 
ing a copy, intensified this time by thinking I was inadvert- 
ently responsible. 

Very quickly, the gentleman said, "Oh, we aren't going 

269 



to put that in the line. I know we told you we wouldn't copy 
anything you brought. I don't know why they made it." 

I don't think they did put it in the line. They probably 
found they couldn't produce it for a dollar. 

Anyway, it all came to nothing except that I saw I was no 
good to them. I wanted them to make sample pieces and let 
me use them for a season after which time, I would know 
whether the fabric was right or wrong, whether it wore, 
whether the customers liked the way it felt and hung. 

This is the step between the first sample piece of a fabric 
and the weaving of thousands of yards of the fabric. This 
trial period is carried on in France for the French fabric 
manufacturer by the Parisian couturiers to the small extent 
that is necessary in a country which does its mass produc- 
tion for export only. 

The trial period for most fabrics manufactured in Amer- 
ica is carried on by the French fabric manufacturer and the 
French couturier at no expense to the American manufac- 
turer. The American fabric manufacturer scarcely recog- 
nizes the necessity of a trial on a fabric. He does not under- 
stand it. He accepts a successful French fabric as a fait 
accompli, ready for him to copy in millions of colors and 
millions of yards. If you talk to American fabric manu- 
facturers about trying out fabric they are either bored or 
horrified at the slowness of procedure, the necessity for mak- 
ing those few yards. 

Never will I forget, long ago, 1930 or 1931, the scan- 
dalized face of an American gentleman who asked me how 
to put a new fabric on the market. 

He walked into my shop with a small and unusual piece 
of brocade in his pocket. "Where did you get that?" I asked. 

"We made it all ourselves," he said. "We had the idea 
and worked it out." 

270 



"I didn't know there were any machines for making that 
sort of thing in America," said I, under the shadow of the 
French legend. 

"We've got plenty of them," he said. "We make a lot 
of stuff for the French manufacturers here. You know, copy 
their materials for them so they don't have to pay duty." 

"Really?" 

"Sure. Nobody ever questioned it while the old man 
was running the business. But now the boys have come in. 
They keep saying we ought to put the stuff on the market 
ourselves. We took this piece of material to one of the French 
houses and showed it to them. They offered to take all we 
could make." 

"Well, why don't you sell it to them?" 

"We asked them what they'd resell it for and they said 
$7.50 a yard. We could sell it for $4.00, but we'd be under- 
cutting their trade. The boys think we ought to do something 
about it anyway." 

"Why don't you?" 

"We don't know how to start" 

"The first thing you do is sell some to Hattie Carnegie 
or Bergdorf. You can charge them five or six dollars if you 
want. We can't buy anything like that less than seven. Then, 
after they've used it a season, you'll have a little press on it. 
Arrange to get it into Vogue or Harper's Bazaar. See that 
some well-dressed women get circulating around in it where 
they'll be seen." I ran through the French system for him. He 
began to look a little depressed. 

"We won't get any volume that way," he said. 

"No, but don't you see, after the first season when the 
wholesalers have become acquainted with the material, 
you'll be able to sell it to them. You can drop the price for 

271 



them since they'll use more. That's how you have to go about 
putting across a new fabric." 

"It'll take an awful long time," he sighed. 

"Six months to a year," I agreed. 

"And then someone will copy it," he said. 

Then someone would copy it, I knew too. We looked bit- 
terly at one another and reflected on our great competitive 
system. "Can't you register it?" I asked. 

"You can register a print but you can't register a weave," 
he said. "I guess we better sell it to the French." 

You can register a print design and sue anyone who 
copies it. It works fairly satisfactorily, although even that 
game can be beaten. No satisfactory system for registering 
a weave has yet been developed. 

Occasionally an American fabric man goes to France 
and gets a sample length of a print which he rushes back to 
America and registers as his design before the French have 
gotten it registered here for themselves. 

The dress fabric business is a worthy base for the Ameri- 
can dress business. It ekes out a rather unprofitable existence 
in a parasitical way. It begins by stealing ideas and then 
competes with itself like mad on the question of price. It 
runs hither and thither to avoid the unions. It goes into bank- 
ruptcy. It begins over again. Because there are too many 
manufacturers in it, the chance for existence lies in finding 
some way to beat the game, put your competitor out of busi- 
ness, undersell him. 

Often it seems a pity the manufacturers can't take a tip 
from those hated unions, "In unity there is strength." Of 
course, they try to get together, but that extra little dollar 
they might make by being lone wolves always throws their 
mutual benefit societies out of whack. 

The mill heads of Marshall Field aren't going to lose five 

272 



cents a yard by cooperating with the retail store of Marshall 
Field. Meanwhile, none of them are going to bother paying 
the rent for Hawes Inc. because its services are not required. 
One steals what one can, and buys only the rest. 

At any rate, I said to myself after the Marshall Field 
fabric lesson, it only took me two days to find out I have to 
rely mostly on myself if I want to be a couturiere in America. 

But, you see, the overhead at 67th Street was still too 
big to be covered by the customers' orders at prices they 
could afford. Everywhere from $125 to $350, my prices 
were. Every season, my sales went up 25%, regular like 
clockwork, every season I lost less money. 

I thought to expand the sales a little by carrying a few 
more things and that is the way I got into the knitting busi- 
ness. 

I have always loved and admired and worn simple, well- 
made English sweaters. I get bored with the colors but I never 
get tired of the shapes and the softness. 

It didn't occur to me that such sweaters were not made 
in the United States. I wanted to get some to sell at Hawes 
Inc. in the colors I chose. I found there were none to be had. 
So I said, okay, I will have some made. In my quest for a 
maker, I was hired for a knitting job. 

As far as the actual job went, suffice it to say that I 
couldn't run a knitting machine, but from the little I saw 
nobody has ever half exploited that bit of steel. Knitted 
clothes are usually a horror to behold with their drooping 
behinds. They're comfortable and they sell in spite of their 
bagginess. They can actually fit because of the stretch. Some- 
day oh some day, some real designer is going to spend 
a few years with a knitting machine and turn out something 
thoroughly satisfactory in mass production. 

In the meantime, we have no time for experimenting, 

273 



no free time, I mean. We are in business to make money. I 
was hired to produce something new in the way of sweaters, 
although their basic shape had already been perfected as 
far as I could tell. 

I got Miss Dodge, my old classmate and the warden of 
Vassar, to collect a group of what she considered the best 
sweater girls on the campus to consider the matter of some- 
thing new in sweaters with me. I traveled to Poughkeepsie 
to consult with them. They were a very attractive set of girls. 
As I looked them over, I perceived that they had all gotten 
themselves up in honor of the occasion. 

One had on a white turtle-necked sweater. Another wore 
a red sweater with a small round neck. A third had on a crew- 
necked Brooks model. And the fourth and the fifth and the 
sixth had on different colors of the same models. 

"How do you like your sweaters?" I asked. 

"We love them," they responded all at once. 

"Can you think of any improvements that could be 
made?" I inquired. 

'Wo/* they asserted firmly. 

I tried for an hour and a half to make them tell me some- 
thing they would like to have in the way of a sweater, some- 
thing new, something different. There wasn't a thing they 
wanted. They wore sweaters nine-tenths of the time and they 
were perfectly satisfied. 

They would only concede that possibly there might be 
other and more exciting colors from time to time. I left them. 
I had discovered exactly what I feared. Sweaters were quite 
satisfactory. 

The only thing I could think of to help them out was 
to make a sweater that was knitted to button in back. They 
were all wearing their Brooks coat-sweaters back-side-to and 
had great gaps over their fannies. I tried to make my knitter 

274 



do a double-fannied sweater, so it would cross and button 
securely over the tail in the rear. He thought I was mad. 
Maybe I was. 

Anyway he shortly pointed out to me that there was no 
sense of his paying me money to tell him to make a sweater 
with a two-and-two rib instead of no rib, or to rib it up to the 
breasts instead of just to the waist. He wanted me to revolu- 
tionize the sweater industry. 

What I wanted him to do was make classic sweaters in 
wonderful colors. Far from doing that, I spent most of my 
time telling him what I'd told Nibs. His knitted things didn't 
fit. "There isn't any use of my designing anything for you 
until you can make the sizes right," I'd shout. 

I got out six size fourteen skirts one day and showed him 
that not one of them measured the same in any particular 
He just said, "Design something new. I have a production 
man. You are a designer" 

Over and over again, the wholesale trade's idea of a 
designer is some mythical and impractical creature who 
turns out something new under any and all circumstances, 
regardless of fit. The knitter paid me $100 a week and 
wouldn't even listen to the simple facts of life which I could 
explain even if I had become convinced that sweaters didn't 
need designing. 

As Brooks Bros, have been quietly proving for the last 
twenty years, the sweater business doesn't need to be rev- 
olutionized. It just needs a new color and a new weave from 
time to time, and even that isn't vital. Brooks Bros, have 
been taking the entire output of a number of mills in Scot- 
land for decades. 

Brooks Bros, aren't even mentioned in the fashion 
world. They are considered quite, quite unimportant. Fash- 
ion has not been able to persuade them to give up something 

275 



good for the doubtful added profits on something different. 

Nor has fashion been able to persuade thousands of col- 
lege girls, as freshmen or graduates, that there is any point 
in buying anything but a perfectly simple and functional 
sweater. 

All of these little excavations of mine in the mass produc- 
tion world began to have meaning and by the spring of 1935, 
I saw the bones of that world laid bare. 



276 



21 



Wtrih 




IN THE spring of 1935 there happened a lucky accident 
which paid almost all my rent for over a year and a half. 
The accident was due to two things. 

The first thing was the result of having made a few 
friends for myself during my Seventh Avenue experiences. 

277 



One of them was a shop named Dewees in Philadelphia. 
Dewees didn't sell any quantity of Hawes clothes but they 
made a fuss about them for promotion's sake, and were 
pleasant people. 

When I stopped doing wholesale, they expressed their 
regret. I didn't want to let them down. I therefore contracted 
to do a few accessories for them so that they could continue 
to advertise my name. Among other things which I gave them 
in the spring of 1935 was a glove which buttoned on the back. 

They put me in touch with a wholesale glove man and 
I made a rather loose arrangement with him whereby he 
was probably to give me a royalty if the glove happened to 
sell to other stores. We had nothing in writing. I gave him 
two or three glove models and forgot the entire transaction. 

In the meantime, the other half of the accident was taking 
place. The Lucky Strike advertising was managed by the firm 
of Lord and Thomas. The method of getting pictures for the 
ads was to take dozens of them and then throw away those 
and take another dozen until finally one appeared which 
pleased the agency and the advertiser. 

Because a friend of mine worked there, they took pic- 
tures of my clothes from time to time. I was never particu- 
larly keen on the idea because I don't think ladies who wear 
Hawes clothes care to see those clothes in cigarette advertis- 
ing. However, mostly in the spirit of friendship and because 
my friend kept assuring me that some day something would 
come of it just what, I never knew I lent Lord and 
Thomas things to photograph. 

In November, 1934, they took a pink suede jacket and 
a pair of pink suede gloves to match it. The gloves had orig- 
inally been the idea of my hat designer. She had designed a 
pair for herself and had them made in England in the '20's. 

In 1931, when we were first beginning to dabble with 

278 



accessories, she brought in this very simple glove. It re- 
sembled in every way the usual one button glove except for 
one fact: it buttoned on the back of the wrist instead of the 
front. 

I liked it and we had a pair made up in red suede which 
clinched the idea. Colored gloves didn't exist in those days. 

We always kept a sample on hand and took a few orders 
every season. By 1934, 1 saw no reason why the Lucky Strike 
people shouldn't use the glove if they liked. I figured it was 
no more use to us. And the photograph would probably never 
be used. It was this same glove which I gave to Dewees via 
Mr. Postman, the glove manufacturer. 

Suddenly in April, my friend at Lord and Thomas called 
me up and said, "Do something quickly. Your glove is com- 
ing out in the May Lucky Strike ads and you must merchan- 
dise it at once." 

The reason she wanted it merchandised was because 
maybe you once heard of a Camel Hat. Maybe you heard 
of the Lucky Strike Glove. When something is put on the 
market which appears simultaneously in a cigarette ad, the 
cigarette gets a lot of extra advertising free. The stores are 
apt to hop onto the merchandise for promotion because it is 
already on the backs of half the magazines in the United 
States. 

I have become progressively lazy where mass merchan- 
dising of Hawes articles is concerned. Usually when the 
smoke has cleared away, I find I've made $45.50 on a royalty 
and it isn't worth the effort. Had it not been that the glove 
was already manufactured by Postman, I'd probably never 
have even called up anyone. 

But I did call Postman up and explained all to him. 
The lady from Lord and Thomas also explained all to him 
and gave him reprints of the ad which was to appear and 

279 



lots of good advice. It was a wonderful picture of the glove, 
that ad. The whole center of the picture was one hand with 
a back-buttoned pink suede glove holding a cigarette. 

The most remarkable part of this story is that Mr. Post- 
man never tried to trip me up for one single instant. He had 
the glove and I had no contract with him. He proceeded to 
make one with me, giving me a five percent royalty. He pro- 
moted the glove to the stores, which were delighted. It is not 
often a glove department has anything particular to attract 
the public attention. One of the stores which bought it sent for 
their first gloves by airplane. 

Mr. Postman, although a quiet man, knew his business. 
He wasn't particularly used to promotions but he just used 
his head. He had something and he knew it. He gave a pref- 
erence of just two days to one store in every town so that 
they could break the news that they had the glove exclusively, 
the Elizabeth Hawes "Guardsman" glove, as seen in the 
Lucky Strike ad. After two days, the glove was released to 
any other stores which Postman saw fit to sell. 

We all went to town, on that old glove which had come 
out of England five years before. For years and years there 
hadn't been a ladies' glove which buttoned on the back. 
Maybe there never had. 

I retained the rights to the glove exclusively for Hawes 
Inc. in New York for a very simple reason. We were selling 
the glove in suede, hand-made, for $12.50. It cost us $6 and 
we took our usual mark-up to cover the overhead. 

Mr. Postman put out the glove in cotton to retail for 
$1.95. This was probably the most expensive cotton glove 
that had appeared for years. Mr. Postman figured he must 
use an expensive imported cotton fabric in order to make it 
look like the suede in the picture. He also said that suede 

280 



gloves did not sell in the spring. He also said he could al- 
ways cut the price later. 

He pleaded with me to release the glove for New York. 
I just sat down and figured out that for every pair I sold hand- 
made at $12.50, 1 made $6 toward the rent. If I let out the 
cheap version in New York, I couldn't continue to sell my 
version. I would make $6 on every seventy-two pairs sold in 
New York on my five percent royalty. I stuck to my point. 
Finally I released the glove in the summer after my season 
was over and it was still good enough news for Lord and 
Taylor to run an ad saying they had it. 

From May to November, I garnered in from $500 to 
$700 a month on royalties from this glove. I thought it was 
one of the greatest jokes of all time. Mr. Postman decided it 
would be a good idea to make me an employe. 

Usually I negotiate all my contracts myself. I know I lose 
money that way, but I feel better about it. This time I left 
the negotiations to my manager. The pleasant young man 
who had helped me to electrify the wholesale dress world 
and move into 67th Street had left. I had a very tough guy 
for manager during 1935. I was trying this and that to see 
how one made expensive couturiere houses pay their way. 

The tough guy made a contract for me to design gloves 
for Postman for $500 a month for one year. I dropped 
open my mouth when he told me but I figured Mr. Postman 
must know his business. If I had been on hand at the time the 
arrangements were made, I would probably have pointed 
out that it is only once every decade that a break like the 
Guardsman glove occurs. 

A glove is a small thing. It goes onto a certain definite 
object called a hand for the purpose of covering it and keep- 
ing it warm or clean. There are not very many things one 
can do to the small covering in question. The hand must be 

281 



able to move in the glove. A shape has been devised so that 
this is possible when the leather or fabric used in the glove 
is stretchy enough. 

The most satisfactory glove has already been designed. 
It is a simple pull-on. It may button at the wrist to give a slim 
look. It usually has little lines on the back because it is as- 
sumed that ladies want their hands to look long and thin. 

A glove designer can play around all she likes trying 
to make a new glove. A majority of the gloves sold will re- 
main the basic version. This is not only the experience of 
Mr. Postman, for whom I worked, but of several other glove 
manufacturers whom he specifically asked. All of them re- 
ported that what they call classic gloves always outsold any 
other type of glove they showed. 

The glove designer's lot is, therefore, not a happy one. 
As a glove designer, if you aren't going to perpetrate a hor- 
ror, your designing must consist in simply doing something 
slightly more amusing with the perfected form of a glove. 

As anyone can see, most glove designers are engaged in 
ruining the basic shape of their article by blurring it with 
God knows what in the way of trimming and cutting and sew- 
ing. This is the result of the vast endeavor on the part of the 
manufacturer to meet the demand of the department store 
for "something new." That the public makes no such de- 
mand is amply proven in the case of gloves. The public wants 
good simple gloves. And for the most part they buy good 
simple gloves. 

The fact that we buttoned the glove on the back gave the 
public something just a spot different to buy. It in no way 
interfered with the function or simplicity of the glove. 

Mr. Postman was a very wise man in some ways. He 
never harassed us for more and more designs. He said to 
just go ahead and send along something when we had an 

282 



idea. This was the millennium in outside jobs for Hawes 
Inc. Mr. Postman had a glove designer at the factory in 
Gloversville who sat all day every day making new kinds of 
trimming and stitching and edging and tucking and lacing 
and gloves which few human beings would ever really want. 

Of course, they sold in a small way because women go 
and look for new gloves and often make the mistake of buy- 
ing something rather fancy which they afterwards regret. 
Ninety percent of the effort in designing new gloves is lost. 

One of the bad points about Mr. Postman's arrangements 
with me was that, in a world of promotion, he spent money 
to get a name and something to promote and then he didn't 
spend another cent to promote it. 

I do not mean to say that in a sane world, any of this 
would be necessary. In a sane world, Mr. Postman, who 
makes as good gloves as can bought, would continue to make 
the same gloves year after year, of good quality at a fair 
price. He would probably hire someone like me to give him 
ten new ideas a year. Those ten ideas would be culled from 
the forty or fifty that three or four ingenious Hawes em- 
ployes produced without too great an effort. If we didn't 
have more than three decent thoughts on gloves, then Mr. 
Postman would be content with those and so would the pub- 
lic. 

Some of the ideas would be as startling as just button- 
ing a short glove with an old-fashioned underclothes button. 
We did that at Hawes Inc. last year and everybody loved it 
because they were just tired of looking at pearl buttons on 
their wrists. 

When you boil the business of changing style and fash- 
ion down to gloves, it becomes almost too clear. You see that 
there is a basic shape you have to cover and an anatomical 
way of doing it. You see that the public likes a little change 

283 



from time to time and that they can be satisfied quite simply. 

You see that the style of the glove remains fundamen- 
tally the same because it is functional. You perceive how 
slight is the demand for changing fashion in your glove, how 
it is mostly a matter of amusement. 

And you find Fashion kicking up a great fuss about try- 
ing to make everything different all the time. Through his 
advertising departments Fashion decrees that gloves must be 
all colors of the rainbow one year, that they will be all plain 
white the next, that this season they are to have cuffs and next 
season they will have six buttons. 

As soon as one gets into any field in wearing apparel 
where a fundamental functional form has been achieved, the 
fussing and fuming of Fashion become startlingly apparent. 
Oddly and satisfactorily enough, they also become of little 
account. Their great aim of constant change is stopped short. 

The public, in a dumb way, just insist on having what 
they want once they have been able to find it. They stick to 
it until something really better crosses their path. Fashion 
may flaunt a million fancy gloves in their faces, the majority 
of women just calmly buy the most satisfactory type however 
old it may be. 

Just as this is the case with gloves, so it has proven with 
sweaters. If a fundamentally satisfactory way had been de- 
veloped for making clothes in mass production, Fashion 
would be far less successful in changing women's clothing 
every six months. Fashion is not very successful in changing 
women's sport clothes, including sweaters. Sport clothes ap- 
proach complete comfort and satisfaction. They are sleeve- 
less, or short sleeved, loose and, may I say, "ill-fitted" ac- 
cording to the ideas of fit which other types of women's 
clothes try to reach. The nearer that women's sport clothes 

284 



get to being simple affairs of shirts and shorts, slacks, or 
flaring skirts, the less yearly change can be found in them. 

What is the fundamental weakness in other types of wom- 
en's clothing? Leave aside for the time being the ideas on 
changing fashion, together with questions of style, are most 
ready-made clothes actually comfortable? Do they fit? Can 
they be "sized" right? 

I say no, not as they are now conceived and designed. 

There are no size 14 women in the world, nor are 
there any size 16. There is no wholesale dress which fits any 
woman who buys it. No two women in the world have the 
same proportions, width of shoulder, length of arm, height 
of waist. 

The great majority of women in the United States, never 
having had their clothes made to fit them, have not the faint- 
est idea what it is to be really comfortable in clothes, with 
the exception of sweaters which stretch and fit automatically 
and some sport clothes. Any dress which is made to a size 
catches you somewhere, in the ribs because the waistline is 
too high, across the back because the back is too narrow, 
under the arm where the armhole is too small. 

Wholesale clothes are all designed to be made to order. 
It is during the fittings of the type of clothes still being worn 
by all women that the waist is put in the right place, so you 
can breathe, the shoulder is made the right width so the 
sleeve doesn't drag and pull, the sleeve is made long enough 
for you, the neckline cut out enough for your neck. Once a 
dress has been cut and entirely sewed up with no material 
left in any seam, it is absolutely impossible ever to take it 
to pieces and really make it fit any special woman. 

The vast majority of American women are uncomfort- 
able in their clothes whether they know it or not. A good 

285 



many of them know they can't get wholesale clothes to come 
anywhere near fitting. 

How can this be otherwise when the basis of all Amer- 
ican designing has for generations been the clothes of the 
French couturiers? Of their methods and reasons for design- 
ing, I have already said enough. The whole French couture, 
I repeat, is based on crafts, on making designs to order. 

The American couture, to which I inadvertently ap- 
pointed myself a pioneer, is based on the same methods. 
This kind of designing has no application of any kind to 
machine production. 

Even the spirit of a large majority of the actual designs 
has no application to machine production. Machine produc- 
tion is in masses and should be for masses. It must be con- 
ceived in relation to the actual lives of the people who are 
going to wear it and not in relation to a group of women who 
lead lives of leisure. 

How much advertising space is devoted to showing 
clothes designed especially for the working girl? A little, but 
a very little. And how satisfactory are the clothes which the 
working girl can buy for her price? The girl who wants to 
look neat in her office is faced, year in year out, with a little 
black or navy blue dress with the traditional white collar. 
Neat, to be sure when she leaves home in the morning. 
Neat, that is, if she has time and energy to press it every 
night. 

The stuff of her dress is a mass of wrinkles over her 
fanny since she sits hour after hour before her typewriter. 
The back of the dress suffers likewise if she leans against her 
chair for any period. The dress will be neat if she can afford 
to have it cleaned often enough, for the dress seldom is wash- 
able. And with all of this, the typical office dress is a deadly 

286 



bore, an unglorified uniform which adds little to the spice 
of life. 

The clothes designers of the future, the American De- 
signers if you like, will find some way of solving these prob- 
lems of neatness and cleanliness and a fundamental human 
desire to look attractive. These designers will also find some 
way of designing clothes that must fit, so that they have no 
specific demarcation line to emphasize the varying widths 
of shoulders, so that they must, by virtue of the basic design, 
hug into any size waist. 

The basic design of something is what you have left after 
all the meringue has been scraped off. If it's a good basic 
design, it is functional. So, the design of an untrimmed, pull- 
on glove is the base for all glove design at the moment. It is 
a simple, functional covering for the hand. 

The Hoover apron, that simple tie-around affair, orig- 
inally blue cotton with a white collar, is a basic design. It is 
thoroughly functional when used as an apron. It is not func- 
tional as a dress because it only wraps across the front and 
so can fly open when you walk in it. 

The basic design of most wholesale dresses, the reason 
that manufacturers can do nearly a whole "line" on one pat- 
tern, is a simple affair. The whole garment is cut straight up 
and down the material. The skirt is two straight pieces with 
seams on either side. Pleats may be inserted at various spots, 
godets may be set in. The base of the skirt remains the same. 
The waist is attached to the skirt in the waistline (wherever 
that is) and has darts below the bust to give room above. 
There are two darts on the shoulder to give room below. 
There is an armhole into which is set a straight sleeve. Full- 
ness may be inserted into the sleeve, the neck may be left 
high or cut low in any one of many shapes. A collar may be 

287 



added, or a bow, or a clip, or a belt. The basic pattern re- 
mains the same. 

As I have said, it is in the fitting of even this simplest 
type of basic present-day dress pattern to the individual that 
all allowances are made for variations in physical structure. 
And if I have not made it plain that such a design cannot 
really fit without being made to order, then you will have 
to have one made for yourself to convince you! 

When I say that mass-produced clothes should be de- 
signed on basic patterns which can be made by machine, I 
mean that either we must not try to have them fit as custom- 
made clothes fit or we must have materials to make them of 
which do not now exist. 

We may perhaps have dresses which are quite full and 
blousy, gathered in at the waist, which must not be cut in the 
garment, by a belt or sash of some kind. The shoulder and 
sleeve must not try to fit tightly but must cover the shoulder 
and arm comfortably and loosely. 

The Japanese kimono is a basic design of this sort. It is 
not, however, a thoroughly functional design for our more 
active Western pursuits. The Hoover apron is made on the 
same wrap-around principle. 

I cannot say exactly how mass-produced clothes should 
be cut because I only know that they are wrong. I have full 
confidence that some designer or designers, working unham- 
pered by any fashionable legends, will develop something 
about which I have so far had only time to think. 

To make possible the designing of clothes which fit, the 
fabric manufacturers will have to become American fabric 
manufacturers, or machine manufacturers. They must cre- 
ate materials which stretch, perhaps only in certain places. 
There is already a tiny beginning of that in Lastex. 

Probably I am being far too unimaginative. Probably 

288 



the clothes designer of the future will design a mold into 
which will be poured some substance which will solidify into 
a finished garment. 

Undoubtedly even before that we will have delightful 
paper underclothes which can be worn and thrown out after 
being bought by the gross at Woolworth's. And paper other 
clothes for hot summer days. Insulated overcoats will be nice 
because they won't weigh anything. 

I would not be doing justice to the future of clothes if I 
did not point out that practically all psychologists who have 
bothered to consider the subject agree that eventually we will 
all become nudists. 

The time, money, and energy spent on dressing will be 
directed toward the desirable end of being actually, physi- 
cally beautiful, thereby making us, ourselves, so decorative 
that it will be quite unnecessary to cover our ugliness with 
garments of any kind. That basic reason for wearing clothes 
at all, sex appeal, will shine out all over our healthy skins. 

Modesty, another reason for wearing clothes, is already 
rapidly going by the boards. Most people believe that the 
final matter of wearing clothes for protection will be washed 
up by our securing complete control of our physical en- 
vironment in the matter of heating, cooling, and what-not. 

Thus, in the broadest sense of the word, nobody should 
consider the future of any clothing, for there will be no such 
animal. Every individual will go about, to quote I. C. Flugel, 
"distaining the sartorial crutches on which he perilously 
supported himself during the earlier tottering stages of his 
march towards a higher culture." 

Since I fear we shall all be dead before this highly desir- 
able end of all dress designers is accomplished, I throw the 
idea into the pot where I'm stewing up other legends. 

At any rate, I am away ahead of my story. It was the very 

289 



obvious beginning of a return to prosperity which gave me 
time to have a flight of fancy, in the spring of 1935. 

My customers began to order more clothes, the Smith 
Co., for whom all this time I'd been designing bags, had, to 
their great chagrin, paid me several thousand dollars in 
royalties on a much larger gross business than they'd antici- 
pated when we made the contract. This, I assume, must be 
ascribed to their ability to cut prices. If you recall, they were 
running an out-of-town non-union shop. 

Mr. Postman was beginning to shower me with Lucky 
Strike royalties. I had time to be theoretically bothered over 
mass production, since the crafts were beginning to support 
me to it. 

I had time to reflect on the instability of all legends, in- 
cluding the French. I decided to take a long trip. 



290 



en 



J&le 




DJCE many another questing soul, I wanted to go to the 
oviet Union. Just what anyone expects to discover about 
the progress of socialism by skidding over the outside edge of 
a foreign country for a few weeks, I don't know. Annually 
dozens of people seem to discover what they want to and to 
publish their findings. 

291 



Some of them find out it is heaven, others of them dis- 
cover joyfully that it is hell. Life seems to be a continual 
combination of the two, the U.S.S.R. being no exception. 

I was fortunate in meeting the Soviet Consul in New York 
before I left and he proposed that I take along some clothes 
to show in Moscow. I was delighted because I knew I would 
see more in the U.S.S.R. if I were not just a tourist. 

The whole story of my Russian expedition has little place 
here. Suffice it to say that I was fascinated with looking at 
a bit of the beginning of something and they were fasci- 
nated with looking at my most elaborate and capitalistic 
clothes. 

I found the Soviet clothing industry in a very embryonic 
stage, just having arrived at the point of covering one hun- 
dred and sixty million socialists once. There was little the 
Russians could teach me about clothes, but one hopeful bit 
of theory sticks in my mind. 

The head of the Dress Trust, a thoroughly intelligent and 
pleasant lady who in many ways, even physically, resembled 
Mary Lewis of Best and Co., made this one point quite clear 
to me. What she said was also backed up by what I saw. The 
Soviet Dress Trust was basing its efforts as far as possible on 
a simple fact of life: The public should have what it wants, 
not what the Dress Trust decides it should want or might 
want, but what that public declares itself as wanting. 

The machinery for discovering wants was still as em- 
bryonic as the clothing business. It consisted in public show- 
ings of newly designed models for one thing. The audience 
voted on which dresses pleased them and these models were 
put into mass production. Another method was filling in 
blanks in stores, criticizing what existed or asking for what 
did not exist. 

My life in American department stores, except as a cus- 

292 



tomer, which is bad enough, has been limited to my jobs in 
France. I therefore quote a very astute lady named Marion 
Taylor, then employed by Vogue as a merchandising coun- 
cil. Miss Taylor made a speech in Chicago in the spring of 
1937 in which she especially stressed one point. 

Once, she said, there was a system of "want slips" in de- 
partment stores. These slips were to be filled out by the sales- 
people, notifying the buyers of things which the public 
wanted and which the store was not providing. I gathered 
that in the course of human events, the use of these slips had 
fallen into disrepute. 

Miss Taylor was telling the merchants present in no un- 
certain terms that they would do well to revive these slips. 
"You do not pay enough attention to the wants of your cus- 
tomers," she said. 

Her opinion is shared by the head of the personnel sec- 
tion of a large group of department stores. He told me one 
day that the average department store spent two-thirds of its 
energy competing with the offerings of other stores rather 
than simply trying to find out what the customers wanted. 

The opinion is likewise shared by a large section of the 
public. "And when I asked the salesgirl for a coat without 
fur," say one hundred thousand women, "she just looked at 
me. 'Madame,' she said with raised eyebrows, 'coats without 
fur are not being worn this season.' What could I do?" What 
could she do? The Duchess of Windsor was wearing a coat 
with fur that season and one hundred thousand women could 
do likewise or go without. The dictates of dear old Fashion 
come first. 

One thing which upset me a good deal in Russia was the 
dictates of dear old something-or-other were taking a num- 
ber of Russian gentlemen out of their beautiful and comfort- 
able Russian blouses into the masculine strait-jackets of 

293 



our Western civilization. Oh, I know that if you've been 
beaten down for centuries while wearing a blouse, the first 
thing you do upon freeing yourself is to cast off the outward 
signs of slavery. Nevertheless, I consider the rise of uncom- 
fortable men's clothes in the Soviet Union by all odds the 
most pernicious result of the revolution. 

I've always been preoccupied with men's clothes, first 
because they're comfortable and second because they're un- 
comfortable, third because they're ugly and fourth because 
they're handsome. It was men's clothes that paid my fare to 
Russia. 

In the spring of 1935 a young lady turned up in my office 
from the American Magazine. She told me that they had a 
new color process and that the editor thought it would be 
amusing to get some women's designer to do sketches of col- 
ored, and therefore, original clothes for men, which they 
could print. 

"Fine," I said, "how different can I make them?" 

"Well," she said, "the editor is quite broadminded." 

I thought she was just offering me what people have a 
way of thinking is "free publicity" but I am very weak about 
falling for what I want to do anyway. I wanted to do some- 
thing about men's clothes. I told her to go back and get it 
quite straight how many and what kind of things the maga- 
zine wanted as I was in a hurry, leaving town in three weeks. 

The next day my secretary came to me laughing. "The 
American Magazine just called up," she said. "The girl was 
quite embarrassed. She forgot to speak to you about 're- 
muneration.' All they will be able to pay you is $500. She 
wants to know whether that will be enough." 

It was just enough to make my trip to Russia easy instead 
of just a bit difficult. I felt as if I'd found the money under 

294 



a stone some place. So I set to work to whip up four sketches 
of men's clothes. 

I had already done some research into men's clothes for 
an article I wrote and threw in the waste basket afterward. I 
was moved to do a piece one night while hearing a lecture at 
the New School for Social Research in New York. Frank 
Lloyd Wright, "modern architect" and functional designer, 
was expounding on the new world. He was properly attired 
in a stiff shirt and a black Tuxedo. 

Every time he said "modern," his stiff shirt cracked. 
Every time he said "functional," the shirt rose a little more 
out of the vest. He'd unconsciously pat it into place again 
and continue. 

I thought of all the architects I'd once made a speech to 
at their League. Some of them were "old school," neo-Greek, 
neo-Gothic, nineteenth century in outlook. Some of them were 
younger in age and equally neo. A few of them were working 
on reinforced concrete buildings, radio-cities, mass produc- 
tion houses. All of them were properly attired in versions of 
the evening clothes their fathers and grandfathers had worn 
before them. 

"Fantastic," I murmured, as Frank Lloyd Wright de- 
livered another blast at the dead past. And I began to ask 
questions at dinner parties. 

"Are you comfortable?" I inquired solicitously of a gen- 
tleman who had just surreptitiously put his finger into the 
edge of his collar and wiggled it a bit. 

"What?" 

"Are you comfortable in those clothes?" 

"Of course!" 

"Really? I thought your collar was cutting into your 
neck," I said. 

"It's an old collar and it's rough on the edge," he ex- 

295 



plained. Then he added belligerently. "There is nothing 
wrong with these clothes." 

That's where I always had the men. They became furious 
the minute their clothes were questioned. Fury either took 
the form of a coldness and a quick get-away or a violent 
argument. This with the exception of a few men who agreed 
with me a hundred percent. 

The matter of men's evening clothes got me down so that 
I gave up having people dress when they came to my house 
for dinner. What parties I give are anything but formal. 

However, ladies quite rightly prefer to dress in the eve- 
ning. Ladies evening clothes are so supple, so comfortable, 
and can be so alluring. 

I found, that once my mind had gotten stiff-shirt con- 
scious, I spent hours after dinner waiting to see which gentle- 
man's shirt would crack first. I will grant them that if the stiff 
shirt is properly cut and fitted and tied down and the party 
is one at which one never relaxes but just sits in a straight 
chair and makes formal talk, the stiff or stuffed shirt is 
the perfect adjunct. 

When most of the furniture consists of couches and there 
aren't enough of those to go around finally, when there is 
plenty of Scotch and soda and everyone breaks down and be- 
gins to chatter, then I always fervently hope that some brave 
male will just rip off his stiff shirt and let his tummy sink 
comfortably, his back bend into the curve of his upholstered 
chair. 

When summer comes burning into New York and every- 
thing goes informal or out of town, then no man expects to 
dress for dinner. They come happily in their light wool suits 
and, as they drink their second cocktail, little drops of per- 
spiration begin to appear here and there. 

296 



This is how I developed my second big idea on male gar- 
ments. "Why don't you take off your coat?" 

The male would first look surprised and pleased, then 
sigh to himself as he said, "I have on suspenders." 

"Why don't you wear a belt?" 

"My trousers wouldn't hang right," he said first. Later, 
"Suspenders are more comfortable." 

Days of research assured me that suspenders are more 
comfortable. I wouldn't believe it at first. I felt sure it was 
just the tradition of the pleated trouser. Finally I became 
quite convinced that having your pants loose around the 
waist and hung from the shoulder is a lot better than binding 
yourself in the middle with a leather strap. 

That is how I first came to worry about suspenders. They 
are certainly, by and large, so ugly that I don't know as I 
would want to expose them in the presence of any lady whose 
aesthetic regard I valued. 

In connection with colors, the main demand of the Amer- 
ican Magazine, my tactics in questioning were as follows: 
"What do you like to buy most?" 

The inevitable response, after consideration, was "Neck- 
ties." 

Just to cut things short, I replied, "That's because it's 
the only thing you wear that has any color in it at all. It's 
perfect nonsense." 

"Color!" They snorted. "Only pansies wear colored 
clothes." 

God help the American male with his background of 
having to be Masculine. It's practically as all-pervading in 
his conscious and subconscious as the fashionable lady's 
desire to be fashionable. In 1935 it was not masculine to 
wear shirts open at the neck; it was not masculine to wear 
colors excepting navy, black, brown, gray, and tan; it was 

297 



not masculine to wear sandals. It was masculine to wear wool 
all the year round, stiff shirts in the evening, heavy shoes all 
summer long. Only a few years before that, it had not been 
right to wear soft collars at any time. 

I turned out my four sketches for the magazine just be- 
fore I sailed for Russia. My sport clothes were quite routine, 
sweaters and trousers arranged so they could be worn nor- 
mally or tucked into the tops of heavy socks if the golf course 
was wet. 

I can find nothing wrong with trousers. They're both 
comfortable and practical. I prefer to wear them myself 
when I'm working or otherwise active. I wouldn't recom- 
mend them for cases where feminine allure is the main ob- 
ject. At the same time I was doing the American Magazine 
things, it hadn't occurred to me that there were times when 
males might do well in skirts, too. 

I did a business suit for the American with a dentist's 
blouse shirt and a collarless coat cut in Tuxedo fashion, not to 
button. No necktie because the shirt was a color, and, any- 
way, there was no collar, just a straight band. It would be 
well to obliterate the collars on men's sack coats. They sel- 
dom if ever fit. They hunch up when a man sits even if they 
are cut to fit when he stands. In fact, the well cut coat of a 
business suit is an idiocy. In order to sit down in it, the man 
has to unbutton it! 

The evening clothes included kummerbunds, soft shirts 
with bands for collars, colors. Of the colors, in the American 
Magazine, we will not speak. I got samples of the fabrics I 
would have used for the clothes and gave the colors. The new 
color process was not very accurate. Also the artist who did 
the finished sketches for the magazine added bits like navy 
blue shoes which I had not indicated. 

The thing came out in the fall after I had returned. I was 

298 



quite shocked at the appearance of the sketches. Not so the 
entire public. Letters began to roll in from all over the coun- 
try. "Where can I get that shirt?" "Please, Miss Hawes, do 
some more clothes for men." 

I thought I'd better continue and spent a month trying to 
line up just five men who would buy themselves suits of my 
design. I got Tony Williams, the New York tailor, to say he'd 
make the things up, but my initial mistake was in not decid- 
ing then and there to present the men with the clothes. It gave 
me an inferiority complex in my negotiations. 

For instance, there was the Forum. Mr. Henry Goddard 
Leach sent me word, after he saw the American Magazine 
sketches, that he would like me to do an article on the sub- 
ject. Goody, I thought. I made an appointment to see him. 

"Mr. Leach," I said, to a tall gentleman of middle age 
who stands up very straight and is well built, "If you believe 
in having more comfortable clothes, will you buy yourself a 
suit of my design made by a good tailor?" 

Mr. Leach looked a little put out. 

"I will go farther," I added. "You want an article from 
me. I will do it for you for nothing if you will buy a suit." 

We discussed suits. Mr. Leach was very proud of his 
shirts which he had made specially of some to-him-wonder- 
ful material, a bit of pique which we girls have been using 
for shirts for years. Finally I brought him back to the point. 
Would he wear a Hawes suit? 

"Miss Hawes," he said, "I wear anything I please. I 
don't care what anyone says. But I shall have to see what my 
wife thinks about this." 

I guess his wife did not think well of it. I did him an 
article but it wasn't "controversial" enough for him. So I 
dropped that. 

Then I nabbed Stanton Griffis, a gentleman from Wall 

299 



Street. Since Mr. Griffis had shown so much imagination in 
his successful business career, which includes not just stocks 
and bonds but books and the theater, I thought he might 
humor me. Besides, he is a nice man. That was my trouble 
with him. I took pity on him. 

I got myself invited to the rodeo one night for the express 
purpose of selling Stanton Griffis a suit. I stuck through 
thick and thin and saw to it that I got taken home the last of 
three ladies by quietly forgetting to remind him when we 
went by 67th Street the first time. 

As soon as we had dropped Margaret Case of Vogue on 
upper Park Avenue and Stanton had said, "Twenty-one East 
Sixty-seventh Street," to the chauffeur, I set to. 

"Stanton," I inquired, "will you buy a suit from me?" 

"Of course, I will," he answered. (I might have known 
it was all going too easily.) "I didn't know you were going 
into the men's business." 

I settled back more comfortably in the corner of the car. 
"I'm not really. Tony Williams will make the clothes. I just 
want to design them. What color will you have?" 

A tension came over Mr. Griffis' body which I could per- 
ceive even in the dark and from the other side of the car. 
"These are not to be just ordinary suits," I remarked. 

Mr. Griffis cleared his throat. "I haven't gotten a suit 
in America in twenty years," he said weakly. 

I saw that the greatest innovation I could offer Stanton 
Griffis was to have an exact copy of his English evening 
clothes reproduced on Fifth Avenue. "Good night, Stanton," 
I jumped out of the car in front of my house. "I'll call you up 
about it." 

I checked him off and set to work on Paul Cooley, an at- 
tractive young man from Hartford. Paul was most enthusias- 
tic. He has no inhibitions of any kind. He even scared me. He 

300 



thought that he'd like a ruffled shirt and I found myself about 
to tell him that men didn't wear ruffles. 

We repaired to Tony Williams in the Squibb Building to 
talk it all over. Tony, I may add, was a little leery of my 
scheme. I spent a half hour there and during that time Paul 
ordered two suits, of Tony's more or less conventional cut. 
I looked at my watch. It was time to get back to Hawes Inc. 
Paul was beginning to buy a third suit. 

"I have to get along, Paul. I'll do you some sketches and 
see when you come down next time," I said as I left him to 
Tony's quiet solicitude. 

My tactics were wrong somewhere, I decided, and 
dropped the whole business of men's clothes for a year while 
Hawes Inc. began to really flourish in definitely returning 
prosperity. 

I did not forget, however, and in early February of 1937, 
I decided that life was more flourishing and more easy and I 
would start in again on my men's clothes. 

Now, in the meantime, big things had been happening in 
the field of men's clothes. Soft, colored, open shirts had be- 
come masculine. Dark colored evening clothes had been ac- 
cepted. The Merchants Tailor's Association had come to life. 

They invited me to make a speech to them in December, 
1936. Unfortunately, I always retain a childish faith that all 
aeroplanes fly. I planned to come back from Palm Beach one 
day to make the speech that night. All aeroplanes do not fly 
in the winter. So I missed seeing the Association in the flesh. 
But I see their works in print. 

The gentlemen have an idea. It is very simple. It is that 
men should have more color in their clothes. Perhaps it is 
even that men should have comfortable clothes. It is certain 
that men should have more clothes. Is that the ugly little head 
of Fashion I see in the corner? 

301 



Did you happen to notice that the best dressed men of 
America were chosen in 1936? Did you know any of the 
men chosen? Did you hear them voice their dismay and ir- 
ritation? Well, relax. They were not so dismayed at heart. 
Men aren't any different from women after all. Several of 
the men went right off to their tailors and ordered whole 
batches of new suits, realizing that they must keep up their 
public acclaim. 

Don't misunderstand me, I see no reason why men should 
be any different from women about their clothes. There were 
many many years when men wore silks and satins and pinks 
and blues and loved it. It is a great puzzlement to me why, 
when in general the men earn the family budget, it can't be 
divided equally where the clothing section comes in. 

The men are just screaming for a chance to break down 
and have someone take an interest in their problems. They 
are so eager for it they mostly all pretend they wouldn't hear 
of such a thing. 

When you talk seriously and alone to a member of the 
male sex on the matter of his clothing, he becomes quite 
coherent and, at the same time, is apt to develop all the pho- 
bias that most women have about themselves. 

I had a serious talk with Tony Williams in February, 
1937. 1 suggested that he and I give a party together to show 
my clothes and his clothes and that we add to the party some 
of my men's designs. I then pointed out that I could not go 
and ask men to buy my clothes for themselves when it was all 
experimental. I wanted very much to make them clothes that 
they would like to wear, but whether or not they actually 
wore them after they got them mustn't be the main concern. 

I couldn't ask the men to support me to my experiment- 
ing. It was enough to make them my victims. Tony agreed to 

302 



sacrifice his time and energy and money to the future and I 
proceeded to do likewise. 

My victims were wonderful. They were willing. In the 
beginning they were amused. In the end they were entirely 
cooperative. I selected a dramatic critic, a stage designer, a 
lawyer, an advertising salesman, a young man-about-town, 
and a dancer. 

The plan was to make them each a suit of my design, de- 
tails to be agreed upon. They would then appear at a private 
party where I would show ladies' clothes and Tony some of 
his men's clothes. 

On the basis of my past experience, I invited them all to 
come separately to talk things over with me, at my house 
where the conservative element wouldn't set them to buying 
ordinary suits at once in self-defense. The conversations were 
marvelous. 

One of the gentlemen said that he thought it was a great 
mistake to consider putting men into gay clothes. Men, he 
said, were a background for women and should remain in 
that position. Well at least in the instance of our party, he 
had the chance to see what it feels like not to be a background. 

Another victim came in very diffidently. "I don't know 
why you want me to do this," he said. "I'm awfully messy in 
my clothes." 

My eyes fell out of my head. "Everyone says you're 
probably the neatest man in town," I answered. 

"No," he shook his head sadly, "I am not. I have my 
suits made to order. I go from tailor to tailor. I even have my 
shirts made to order. Nothing does any good. I am not neat." 

Just the old case of the lady who persisted in thinking 
she had a fanny. It didn't matter that she didn't have one. She 
felt as if she had. 

The dancer simply bellowed at me when I phoned him 

303 



the first time. He was in the habit of dancing in full evening 
dress. "There is nothing wrong with the clothes I dance in!" 
he shouted. 

"Why don't you come to lunch?" I asked. I then pre- 
pared myself to try and separate him just a tiny little way 
from black and white and tails. 

I suggested, tentatively, that he have a rust suit. This 
was during the first course. I was wearing a fuchsia sweater. 
He had red hair. Suddenly, over the dessert, he looked up 
with a bright eye, "Why couldn't my jacket be that color?" 
He pointed to my sweater. 

"Why, I didn't think ..." I began. Joy flooded my 
heart. Nothing could be nicer than red hair and fuchsia, 
they are so perfectly wonderfully awful together. "Yes, you 
could if you really want to wear it." 

"I'm a dancer," he said assertively. "I can wear any- 
thing." 

The lawyer was a man after my own heart, one of my old- 
est friends. He said, "Make me anything you like but don't 
give me a stiff shirt." I might add that the lawyer was paying 
off an election bet. He bet me anything I wanted that Roose- 
velt would not carry New York State in 1936. 

I had only a few things on my mind in doing the clothes. 
I wanted them to be comfortable. I wanted them to be attrac- 
tive. I wanted to bring suspenders out into the open. Con- 
stance Loudon, my assistant, without whom there would not 
have been any men's clothes because I got the flu in the mid- 
dle of it all, decided that she wanted to see men in skirts. 

"What do you mean, Connie?" I asked, rising feebly 
from my pillows. "It seems to me trousers are quite satisfac- 
tory." 

Connie held up a little rough sketch. There was a big 
strong man in a fine flowing Arabian Nights robe. It was 

304 



wonderful. It was made for Tony Williams and was, I think, 
by all odds the most handsome thing in the show. It made me 
quite certain, once and for all, that for being alluring, the 
skirt is the thing and there is no difference between the sexes. 
It was the kind of a robe Othello probably wore when he was 
busy killing Desdemona. Nobody has ever thought of Shake- 
speare's Moor as anything but a full-blooded male. 

Men and women are quite different in one thing. That's 
the way they behave while fitting their clothes. The men are 
wrong. A few couturiers to relax them, and they would real- 
ize their mistake. 

Women when they fit, never stand still. They raise their 
arms and fix their hair when you're trying to get the length of 
the dress. They reach for a cigarette as you pin in a sleeve. 
They turn and crane their necks to see who's going by the 
door while you are arranging the neck line. It makes fitting 
very difficult but it has its good point. By the time you've 
fitted a dress on a woman, you know how she stands, walks, 
moves and what's going to happen to your dress after it 
leaves the fitting room for public life. 

The men simply amazed me at their fittings. The instant 
they entered the room, they assumed a positively military 
carriage. In went their chins, back went their shoulders, in 
went their tummies. And they proceeded to hold it without a 
breath, without a movement, until the fitting was finished. 

The result is, obviously, that the minute they get wear- 
ing the clothes in ordinary life, they stand entirely differ- 
ently and everything falls out of place. The matter of a fitting 
isn't just the ordinary course of human events to a man. It's 
a ceremonial occasion. 

When the last man had been gotten to his last fitting, 
which was quite a job because men don't make fitting ap- 
pointments like women, they just turn up after they had 

305 



finally turned up, for the last times, it was the night of the 
party. 

I may say, I was in a nervous jitter. Showing clothes in 
Paris and Russia was nothing to what I went through wonder- 
ing whether the men would finish with this affair we had all 
started. I did not have them to rehearse or even tell them in 
advance what I hoped they would do. I just got a lady for 
each man and told her she was to get her man around the 
rooms, up and over the platforms. She was not to let him 
escape except over her dead body. 

Then I sent every man a bottle of champagne at six 
o'clock, and got dressed to receive the guests at ten. Al- 
though I did my best to keep the party to the invited num- 
ber, everyone brought a friend in the inimitable New York 
fashion. It was quite a jam, but most people prefer a 
jam in New York. 

I didn't see much of the beginning of the show. Six 
gentlemen appeared, each with a professional model, one 
pair following the next. The gentlemen wore very elegant 
and more or less conventional clothes, day and evening, 
made for them by Tony Williams. 

The professional models, like my lady guest stars who 
were later to get my men's designs over the bumps, had 
been told not to let any man escape. The only gentleman 
who decided to escape was Lucius Beebe. He was to ap- 
pear in a simple burgundy tux of Tony Williams' design, 
accompanied by a tall and very lovely blonde model who 
had been faithfully working for me for a couple of years. 

When Mr. Beebe arrived at the party, he decided he 
wouldn't show after all. It seemed to me like one thing too 
many at the time, but also nothing to get into an argu- 
ment about. I instructed the model to go out alone when 
the time came. I then instructed Harry Bull and Gilbert 

306 



Seldes, the announcers, to make the proper introduction. 

When the blonde model floated out onto the first platform 
from between the blue satin curtains, Mr. Bull said in a 
loud clear voice, "This is 'Act of God' without Lucius 
Beebe." ("Act of God" was the name of the dress.) 

Mr. Beebe rose to his feet and joined the act. He then 
decided that showing in one room was enough and sat 
down again. The model, preceding him, suddenly became 
aware of his disappearance, turned around, went back to 
his chair, took a firm grip on his arm and gracefully 
dragged him into the front room. 

That finished the first act of the show, which was fol- 
lowed by twenty or thirty beautiful girls in beautiful 
Hawes dresses in the customary fashion show routine. The 
only dire result of that first act was that an English gentle- 
man who'd been modeling a tasty plaid town suit got into 
the models' room and insisted on helping the girls. I finally 
dislodged him by much the same means the model used to 
get Mr. Beebe to his feet. 

It was a very mixed-up evening for me. Little things 
happened constantly like the English gentleman and the 
fact that there kept being no drinks in the gentlemen's dress- 
ing room. That "dressing room" consisted of a screen in 
the basement which was quite inadequate and added noth- 
ing to the good nature of my guest stars. 

The final formal act of the evening was my lady guest 
stars and gentlemen guest stars, paired off together, each 
in an elegant Hawes design. After casting a final look over 
them in the dressing room, I made a dash up to the top of 
the stairs and got onto a chair to see how it had all turned 
out. Just at that moment there was a terrific crash. 

"The bar tipped over," I remember remarking to my- 
self. Then a great blast of cold air came up my bare back. 

307 



It was a welcome feeling. Something to breathe besides cig- 
arette smoke. But what ? I learned hopefully toward the 
first platform, deciding the solution of the crash would 
have to wait until I'd seen the gentlemen do their stuff . 

Came the stage designer . . . blue linen, non-crushable 
linen, trousers, attached with brass rings to the striped sus- 
penders which went over a natural-colored and also non- 
crushable linen blouse, the blouse zipped up the front with 
a straight attached collar which could be zipped shut or 
left open as low as the heat demanded. "Something to work 
in in town when it's hot that is neat enough to wear for 
receiving clients. I don't want to have to put on my coat," 
that's what he wanted and wanted me to make a coat he 
could wear with it! I refused to make the coat. 

The dramatic critic, a gentleman who thought he wasn't 
by nature neat, came through the curtains looking very 
neat and not a little embarrassed, carefully letting his lady 
have the center of the stage. He wore a green linen tunic, 
belted and with a zipper up the front, a band around the 
neck, which could be zipped up or left open. The tunic 
went with some heavy gray Chinese silk pants which had 
a Lastex band to hold them on, thus avoiding both the tight 
belt and the suspender. The whole outfit was planned for 
wearing in the hot summer. It was just about as light as 
pajamas. 

The advertising salesman was simply clad for dinner 
at home. He had sailor pants, laced in back, made of light 
weight, fine wale corduroy, and a sweat shirt of striped up- 
holstery linen. My lawyer's Hawes dinner clothes were of 
bright dark blue wool. They were conventional as to trouser. 
The shirt was soft white silk, made like a dentist blouse 
with a straight band at the neck, buttoned in back, no tie. 
The vest was diagonal stripes, and the coat collarless and 

308 



cut to hang open in front. The lawyer is amply built. He 
got a terrific amount of applause which he explained to me 
afterward was just because he knew so many people in the 
audience but I think it was really because he appeared to 
be having a perfectly wonderful time. 

The young-man-about-town wore black faille trousers 
which were strapped under his pumps, a salmon-pink 
faille, double-breasted, waist-length jacket, and a white silk 
shirt and stock, formal evening clothes and they looked per- 
fectly swell. 

Tony Williams appeared in person next, accompan- 
ied by his wife in a gray-blue monk's robe, a background 
for the Arabian Nights house coat. For a brief moment I 
wondered whether men shouldn't wear skirts all the time. I 
find they have a great desire to wear togas, incidentally. 

The dancer became so vague and artistic during the 
making of the clothes that I sent a special gentleman to 
see that he ever came to the party. He kept forgetting his 
fittings because he was composing a new dance to do at the 
Plaza (yes, it was Paul Draper). He had tight plum 
trousers, strapped under his shoe, a short gray-green jacket 
zipped up the front, a bright pink satin neckerchief which 
I thought looked lovely with his red hair. (He didn't, I 
believe, share my passion.) 

Underneath the jacket was supposed to be a most im- 
portant part of Mr. Draper's costume . . . suspenders of 
rust and fuchsia felt, wide on the shoulder and coming to a 
point where they joined the trouser . . . and there should 
have been a blue knitted shirt. However, it all got so rushed 
that at the last fitting, the blue shirt was a mess and I just 
gave him my own fuchsia sweater to wear. It fitted quite 
tight . . . and was a great deal too short. The general ef- 
fect was fine to me because I knew what it was supposed to 

309 



look like. It must have seemed a touch odd to the audience. 

In fact, I often wonder what the whole thing looked 
like to the audience. I was little tired, but quite pleased, 
as I saw Mr. Draper abandon his lady and execute a few 
steps without benefit of tails on his coat. His costume was 
just a sketch which might or might not ultimately be real- 
ized, perfected, by me or someone else. 

So with all those men's designs: shots in the dark, em- 
bryonic ideas, the suspender exposed and handsome, the 
extraneous necktie relegated to limbo, the stiff collar non- 
existent, the vest used to give a spot of color and some line, 
thrown out as just an extra article of clothing, silk and 
cotton and linen for summer, sweat shirts and comfort for 
dinner. 

I don't really know whether any of those cooperative 
angels who sacrificed themselves to my whims ever wear 
their clothes. Somehow, it isn't terribly important. The vital 
thing to me was that I just had a chance to imagine for a few 
minutes that men's clothes might be comfortable that 
maybe I wouldn't always have to suffer while men turned 
their soft necks about in starched, scratchy linen; that some 
day I'd actually see hundreds and hundreds of men going 
about the July hot streets of New York in cool linen tunics 
and silk trousers; that maybe one day the women would 
relax and enjoy being a background now and then for the 
gay male birds; that possibly when some masculine creature 
took it upon himself to throttle me for some real or imag- 
inary sin, instead of looking up and having my last living 
impression a dull mud-like uniformed being, I'd see won- 
derful rich colors and hear the heavy swish of rich damask. 

My visions as exemplified at the party lasted a short ten 
minutes. The cold air poured up my back constantly and 

310 



the crash rang in my head. I stepped off the chair and de- 
scended the stairs. 

In the entrance hall I saw a flock of policemen and the 
Holmes detective, my secretary, who had been checking 
people in, a couple of surprised looking guests. There I 
saw my large plate-glass window lying in little pieces on 
the floor. There was no blood. I waved my hands and smiled 
a little and everyone slowly melted away into the street. I 
told the secretary to find the houseman and block up the 
window. I forgot to ask what had happened. 

When I got back upstairs, the guests were rising. Talk, 
talk, talk. Smoke, Scotch and soda, food, photographers. . . 

About an hour later a strange man came up to me, say- 
ing, "I'm so sorry. Really, I'm terribly embarrassed. I 
hope it was insured." 

Something I missed happened, I thought. "Oh, yes, 
I'm sure it was," I answered. 

He held up two bandaged fingers. Light dawned. Once 
I had a new Afghan hound, unused to houses. He sprang 
full force at the plate-glass window while I held my breath 
and waited for the crash. The window held. 

The gentleman with the two bandaged fingers had been 
in a hurry to get to the party. He got in through the window. 

Parties are like that. Experimenting is like that. You 
never know until a long time after just what happened. Just 
what happened ... to the men's clothes? Just what had 
happened to my designing bags for the Smith Co.? What 
was happening to Mr. Postman's gloves? What, now in the 
spring of 1937, was happening to Hawes Inc.? 



311 



23 ' Lsar (Competitive QJvdtem 




WHAT had happened to Elizabeth Hawes, by the spring 
of 1937, was that she didn't have one wholesale job 
left and was thanking God for it. Hawes Inc., because of a 
reluctantly returning prosperity, had paid back all past 
debts. 

313 



Miss Hawes had her third and apparently thoroughly 
efficient manager. She was able to raise her salary to nearly 
half what most people thought she earned. The twenty-five 
percent yearly increase in sales had continued unabated for 
three years. Hawes Inc. was paying its way and the manager 
in question was trying hard to begin laying by enough cash 
to see it through the next depression! I was not only an Amer- 
ican eouturiere. I was for the moment a solvent one. 

And so, in the order in which it occurred, let me check off 
those wholesale jobs which haven't checked me off in past 
chapters. 

In the summer of 1935, 1 either dropped or was dropped 
by the Smith Co. Do you remember that once, long ago in 
1932, 1 had begun to tell the Smith Co., "Not stiff, like card- 
board, see? Soft Soft SOFT." 

When I finally parted with them, three years later, they 
were beginning to make a few soft bags. I guess they found 
out it was cheaper. 

The story of the Smith Co. is just the old fable of Box, 
Cox, and Nox. There were once three bag firms, Smith Co., 
Jones & Co. and Willy's. The backgrounds of the three firms 
were identical. They all made expensive copies of the same 
French bags. They all made a living at it. Smith sold his bags 
to Altman. Jones sold his bags to Best. Willy sold his bags to 
Lord and Taylor. 

Somebody undid a screw in the stock market in 1929 and 
it all fell down. Smith and Jones and Willy all found they 
weren't doing enough business to keep alive. Smith, as we 
have seen, decided to get an American Designer. 

Jones decided to go to Connecticut where he could run 
a non-union shop, wages could be lower, and he could keep 
on copying French bags but at a cheaper rate. Willy decided 

314 



he'd stop buying French models. Going to Paris was expen- 
sive and he could steal all the designs he needed. 

Smith promoted Elizabeth Hawes bags all over the 
United States and it looked cheery at first. In 1933 he found, 
however, that no store wanted to pay him more than $4.50 
wholesale for a bag and his bags were still well made and 
sold for $7.50. 

Jones found that, although his Connecticut shop was non- 
union, several other people were making French bags in 
Connecticut and doing it cheaper. Willy found that he 
couldn't run a shop in New York profitably even by stealing 
designs. 

All three of them saw that they must now manufacture 
bags to sell at $4.50. Smith cheapened down all the Hawes 
designs until they were merely envelopes. Still he couldn't 
make any money. 

Jones cheapened all his bags in Connecticut, but the 
union found him there and he had to move to Pennsylvania. 
So he didn't make any money in 1933. 

Willy made a little money in 1933. He moved to Con- 
necticut, became non-union, and continued to steal his de- 
signs. 

In 1934, Smith Co. decided to move to Connecticut to 
avoid paying union wages. Jones was safely settled in Penn- 
sylvania. He made a little money. Willy got caught by the 
union in Connecticut and moved to Pennsylvania, so he lost 
a little money that year. 

When 1935 hove upon the horizon, they all said to them- 
selves, "This year business will be good." So they took a 
deep breath and made a lot of bags in anticipation of big 
orders. Anyway, it is cheaper to make a lot of bags at once 
instead of filling small orders as they come in. 

The orders didn't come on the stock they'd made up. 

315 



Everyone liked the second lines of bags they showed later in 
the season. They all closed out their early stock at a loss. 
They grimly looked out the window. They saw the union 
coming over the horizon. "Damn it," they said. "How is a 
man to keep going? Here I am losing money and the union is 
coming in here to try and make me pay more than $12 a 
week! What is more, my employes work 48 weeks in the 
year." 

"But Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones, Willy. That only makes 
$576 a year. How would you like to bring up a family on 
that?" ' 

"Yes, yes, yes. It is a terrible thing. Outrageous of 
course. I feel terribly sorry for my employes, but what can 
a man do?" 

So Mr. Smith finally became divested of Miss Hawes and 
took up French designs again. Mr. Jones decided to have a 
union shop, make expensive bags, and hire Muriel King to 
design for him. Willy suddenly remembered that he had 
been an expert bagmaker once and he found that the union 
wages were $75 a week. He returned to the bench. There was 
a scarcity of expert men to make sample bags. He worked 
52 weeks and made $3,900 in 1935. Of course, he wasn't his 
own boss. He only had to work a 35-hour week. 

Unfortunately, not only these three gentlemen were en- 
gaged in the bag business, but hundreds of others. All of 
them went through the same thing. All of them are still go- 
ing through it. Apparently they will always go through it. 
Every time a Willy saves up a thousand dollars as an expert 
sample maker, he sets up for himself. It doesn't take much 
machinery or overhead to run a bag business. 

So sadly enough, after five years of it all, I decided only 
a miracle resulting in the death of seventy-five per cent of all 

316 



American bag businesses would put the Smith Co. in a posi- 
tion to settle on a definite policy and go ahead with it. 

One year our conferences would all consist in their ex- 
planations of why they must make cheaper bags. The next 
year we would spend three months wondering whether they 
had been right. The year after, we decided to have ten ex- 
pensive bag designs and ten cheap ones. The next day, they 
thought five expensive ones and fifteen cheap ones would be 
better. The next day, it was fifteen expensive bags and five 
cheap ones. 

I almost lost my mind. So did my first assistant designer, 
Dorothy Zabriskie. So did Connie Loudon, my next assist- 
ant designer. I felt we should plan the designs for the cheap 
bags so they would come out cheap to begin with. Otherwise, 
the Plain Smith just did something to the first bag which cut 
the cost in half and turned it into a pouch with three pin 
tucks. 

It would be unfair to say the Smith Co. did not care 
about what the public wanted. They hired me to tell them. 
Whatever I told them, they suspected of being untrue. I could 
never prove it because if the idea already existed, there was 
no use of their making it. We went to the mat on the matter 
of boxes one spring. They said no. We said yes. After three 
years, I gave in to them quite easily. I liked them but I got 
tired of listening to them straighten out their affairs and 
then unstraighten them. 

Repeatedly we urged them to do things, like the boxes, 
which, sure enough, came out of Paris a few months later. 
The bag business has its own little Zeitgeist. If you are deal- 
ing directly with women, you find yourself having that funny 
feeling that if you only had boxes this spring instead of bags, 
they'd all be delighted. 

I wanted the Smith Co. to make expensive bags for me to 

317 



sell at Hawes Inc., to let me test out my odd notions on my 
clients at those top prices which special orders cost and which 
Hawes customers can pay. They said yes, year after year. 
Then their sample maker never had time to make the special 
things and as their bags got cheaper they lost interest in mak- 
ing expensive ones. 

My arrangement was that any bag design I sold at Hawes 
Inc. belonged to me for a season. Once or twice when we did 
get a good bag from them, and began to order, order, order 
on it, they suddenly lost their self-restraint and made a cheap 
copy. 

Then they would call me down and say, "Look, Miss 
Hawes. We can make this bag for $5.50. Yours costs $12.50. 
We have just changed the leather and the lining and left out 
one pleat. It looks about the same." It would look just enough 
the same to make you sick. "Now, Miss Hawes," they would 
continue, "we could get an order tomorrow for four dozen 
of these bags from Best's. You'd make your commission." I 
worked on a retaining fee and a commission. "You wouldn't 
stop us from selling it? We haven't made a cent here since 
1929." 

I always weakened. I don't know to this day whether they 
made any money or not. After they took the factory out of 
town to avoid the union, Plain Smith dropped a remark one 
day which sort of set me thinking. He said, "Of course, we 
didn't show any profit this season." Then he brightened up, 
after I had agreed to work a little less for much less money. 
"I did show a profit on the out-of-town factory, though," he 
said, as he took up his hat to leave. 

Oh, well. I was fond of the Smith brothers. They were 
like little fish caught in a net, partly of their own weaving 
mostly just the inevitable result of our great competitive sys- 

318 



tern. It had not made very rugged individualists out of the 
Smiths. 

Naturally enough, the most flourishing bag business in 
New York is Koret. Only a few months ago Mr. Delman of 
the shoes was showing me around his factory. "Couldn't you 
make bags?" I asked. 

"Golly," he said, "Mr. Goodman (of Bergdorf Good- 
man) asks me that every day. He says Koret is the only bag 
man who makes good soft bags. He's becoming so independ- 
ent nobody can do anything with him." 

"And why shouldn't Mr. Koret be independent?" I said 
to myself. He is a gentleman whom I have never met, but I 
feel sure he has guts. He built up his business through the de- 
pression. He advertised himself, yes. His ads don't lie. He 
makes as good a bag as you can buy wholesale, I think. The 
leather is good. The linings are good. The style is generally 
good. I am not sure whether he copies French bags. If he 
does, he changes them enough to cut out the competition. He 
does make bags of his own design. 

Probably he was lucky in being able to build from the 
bottom when times were bad, just as I was. Undoubtedly he 
is, or he hires, an excellent manager and actually knows 
ahead of time what bags are going to cost him. Almost no 
wholesaler knows what it really costs to make anything. 

At any rate, Koret started making and kept on making 
bags of good quality. He didn't dither around much. He 
wasn't frightened about what he was to design. He must run 
a union shop and pay a decent wage because he is too well 
known to escape being caught if he didn't. 

Probably he'll go under in the next depression because 
his overhead will be too big, the depression will be worse, 
he'll cut his price and his quality. However, I must say, in 
this day and age, among all the businesses I have touched, of 

319 



which bags is only one, it is only the rugged individualist 
who wins at all. He manages to place himself outside the 
competitive field in some way, never by price, usually by 
quality and style. He does not just whirl endlessly on the 
merry-go-round of wholesale competition. 

After Plain Smith made the remark to me about making 
money on his out-of-town factory, I never had quite my old 
feeling about the Smith Co. They were caught in a net, 
yes. They were being successful in escaping the union that 
year. But I saw that forever and ever they, as indecisive in- 
dividuals, would be going around and around on the com- 
petitive merry-go-round. 

The results of our bag designing for the Smiths were far 
more unsatisfactory to me than to them. I can't I can't 
bear badly made things of poor quality. I can't hire assist- 
ant designers and send them out month after month to try 
and deal with manufacturers who are going to break their 
hearts by leaving all the lines out of the design and making it 
in another leather. 

The Smith Co. contract was just quietly not renewed in 
July, 1936. By this time they have probably been forced to 
move from Connecticut to Pennsylvania. They have prob- 
ably bought French bags and stopped buying them. They 
may have another American Designer working for them. I 
wish her joy of it. 

I withdrew from my Postman glove job with far greater 
regret. Mr. Postman's partner didn't believe in promotion of 
any kind. Mr. P. had been overpaying me in any case. At 
first I thought I would try to design and promote for him. I 
thought that in some way I could arrange to promote nice 
simple designs and made a contract to do just ten gloves for 
them and to see that they were promoted. 

One day when I was talking to a girl about doing the ac- 

320 



tual work on the promotion under my aegis, I suddenly got 
sick of the whole idea. The same old Hoop-la to be gone 
through once more. Would they advertise, how much would 
they advertise? 

What was she going to be able to get into the papers? 
Would it all have to be about me and not about the gloves at 
all? What would the fashion magazines do? 

If I want to help Postman promote his gloves, I am faced 
with two equally inevitable duties. I must make him adver- 
tise somewhat in the better fashion magazines or, no matter 
how good the gloves are, no matter how bright my idea, we 
will get into the editorial pages not more than once a year, 
maybe twice, very small. Second, I must think up some 
bright news stories about gloves so they will be news and 
that either means some silly idea or that I, Hawes, actually 
take the publicity on my own head and electrify the world 
with my thoughts on the glove business. 

The only electrifying thing I can say about the glove de- 
signing is that ninety percent of it is awful! I bet Mr. Post- 
man's partner wouldn't appreciate that. 

So, in the fall of 1936, I took a leave of absence from 
Mr. Postman and gloves. I may go back to it because he re- 
mains for me the most honest and upstanding individual I 
have so far met in the wholesale field. I would rather like 
to make the world know that Mr. Postman makes the best 
gloves they can buy, because I know that he doesn't lie or 
cheat on his leather and workmanship. 

He is up against that same old devil of competition and 
more or less forced to be a "fence" for that foul thief Fash- 
ion. There is one and only one way of beating those two : turn 
out a good and individual product and tell the world. Telling 
the world can be so expensive, one wonders whether it is 
worth while. Great numbers of one's competitors are busy 

321 



cutting things with no seams and using fake leather, saving 
enough to be able to tell the world anything and having some 
left over for profit. Slowly, slowly, the individual manufac- 
turer is caught in the net. Almost inevitably he begins to 
chisel on quality for the purpose of competing on price. 

When I ran into the men's field, I thought to myself, here, 
at least, Fashion is not involved. Here one should be able to 
turn out a good product at a fair price. Here is not instability 
and constant change. 

The first result of the men's clothing jamboree was a 
slight pin prick of irritation. 

A month after the party, about which there wasn't much 
press in New York because I did my best to keep my promise 
and make it private, but about which there was a spread of 
national press because the A.P. was present, Hart Schaffner 
and Marx had five people call me and ask me to see them. 

I reflected on all the letters I'd gotten after the American 
Magazine sketches. I thought of all the boys pining for 
Hawes shirts. I was delighted to see Hart S. and M. 

A very high-powered gentleman turned up in my office. 
"We are going to have a Fiftieth Anniversary," he told me. 

"Yes?" 

"We want to show clothes from fifty years ago, clothes of 
today, and clothes for fifty years from now." 

I began to get a gleam. I set my jaw slightly. 

"We would like to use your clothes for the latter part," 
he told me. 

"The clothes belong to the gentlemen for whom they were 
made," I answered, stalling. 

"Couldn't you borrow them back?" 

"Do you think they're for fifty years from now?" 

"Well, we realize that they are very unusual. . . ." 

322 



"What are you going to pay me?" I got to that point 
quickly. 

"Oh, we thought it would be good press for you. We can 
get them into the movies." 

"I can get press for myself. Why do you want to get press 
on things if you think nobody wants them and you can't sell 
'em?" I was furious. 

"Well, we thought you might like to have them in the 
movies," he was getting quite austere himself. 

"I'm not interested in doing anything merely for the sake 
of the press and you shouldn't be either. Some of the things 
could sell, others not. I am not interested in talking about 
them on any other basis." 

"Of course, if that's the way you feel . . . ," he rose. 

"That is the way I feel. Goodbye." 

I felt sick really. I felt better almost right away because 
one of my pet things was the tunic I made for the dramatic 
critic. My finished version was not perfect by any means, but 
the idea was there, the idea that men could be just as cool and 
undressed on the summer streets of New York as their wives. 

The very next summer, the male tunic began to appear. 
Not my tunic and none of my doing. But soft knitted shirts 
shown to be worn outside the trousers. Of course, they could 
be worn inside. Of course there was no way to hold up the 
trouser except a belt or any ugly suspender. Still, I felt vin- 
dicated. 

The little germ of tunics was planted. If Hart S. and M. 
had felt like investing a few pennies, a few hundred men 
would have bought tunics in 1936. The next year, a few more 
men would buy them. Presently many many men would be 
comfortably clad in the heat. 

And out of the men's clothes show came another small 
experience. Just another ray of light on the clothing business. 

323 



First I was having fun with my men's clothes. Then Hart 
Schaffner and Marx dragged in their promotion idea. Also, 
the Merchant Tailors, I admit, gave me some pause. But, by 
and large, I am somehow relying on chance to thwart Fashion 
in the men's field. Chance in the guise of the spoiled Ameri- 
can woman and her over-balanced clothing budget, chance in 
the shape of the masculine tradition, refusing change stol- 
idly, stupidly. 

It is interesting to note that changes in men's style come 
from the lower classes. I was interested in Hart Schaffner 
and Marx and the readers of the American Magazine because 
I felt they appealed to a quantity market. Perhaps Sears, 
Roebuck would be the best bet of all for introducing some- 
thing new to American men. 

In the field of male attire, one realizes very sharply the 
class distinctions in American life. The women, a majority 
dressed in mass-produced French interpretations, slide 
rather easily from top to bottom of the social scale, all 
dressed more or less alike, mostly all looking for some good 
man to support them. 

The economic foundations of our society are upheld by 
men. One of the emblems of the upper class male is his "cor- 
rect" clothing. When a young man achieves a dress suit, then 
he has reached the top. He can go about without being 
spotted for an underling. He can, in his opinion, consort with 
bankers on their own level. 

The well-cut sack suit, the neatly buttoned vest, the som- 
ber tie, are emblems of success and responsibility in the 
business world. It will never be, it is not, easy to get upper- 
class men to shed their birthright in clothes. 

It is the prerogative of the working man, the lower class 
guy, to wear no collar and no tie. He may go without a hat if 
he likes. He can wear loose, unpleated blue jeans. He can 

324 



show his suspenders if he wants. He can go shirtless in the 
hot summer, the straps of his overalls barely covering his 
hairy chest. 

He is thereby marked "unsuccessful." He is not admitted 
to the best clubs, nor even allowed to ride up in the elevator 
of the Squibb Building without a coat. He is hired for what- 
ever wage is necessary in a competitive labor market. 

Competing in that labor market, he may, as the saying 
goes, "have nothing to lose but his chains." By virtue of that 
fact, in the field of clothing, he has nothing to risk by being 
comfortable. 

His boss will not look askance if he turns up in sandals 
in the summer. He will not be fired for choosing to wear no 
collar to work. Through him have come the changes of style 
of the last few years in men's clothes. 

He, the worker, was the first to wear soft, knitted shirts, 
open at the neck. He has for years worn bright striped sweat- 
ers and loud checked suits if he felt like it. The Negroes in 
Harlem have been wearing wonderful colored suits for 
years, light blues, bright greens, stripes of orange and rust. 

Now the graduates of Yale and Harvard and Oxford are 
discovering that they, too, can be comfortable in soft shirts, 
gay in loud plaids and stripes. They are discovering it 
slowly, gingerly. Their fathers are not interested. Their 
fathers are interested in maintaining the status quo, cor- 
rectly clothed for that task. 

Anatole France said that if he could have any one book 
one hundred years after he was dead which would tell him 
the most about what was going on in the world, he would take 
a book of fashion. If he were, right now, to examine the 
clothing of gentlemen and ladies in America, he would find 
a certain leveling process going on, a drawing together of the 
upper and lower strata. 

325 



This, gentlemen, should give you something to consider 
before you throw your hats over the posts forever. Presently, 
if you are not careful, one will not be able to distinguish the 
boss from the worker. 

You may now, Mr. Anatole France, distinguish them by 
their suspenders. With all the enthusiasm of a child, I de- 
cided that suspenders should be brought out into the open. 

With all the stubbornness of the artist, I said that suspen- 
ders should be an aesthetic delight. With my humanitarian 
spirit raring to go, I became convinced that suspenders were 
hygienic and that all men should wear them. 

I therefore acquired a job to design suspenders, just 
after the men's fashion show, in the spring of 1937. 1 made 
my contact through a friend. I made a very bad money ar- 
rangement because I wanted to do the suspenders. I signed, 
sealed and delivered myself, my name, and all my promo- 
tional possibilities to the Park Suspender Co. for $500 cash 
and a small royalty. 

One thousand dollars in cash is supposed to be the least 
that can be involved where the Hawes name is seen in the ad- 
vertising of any other firm. I bowed my head before this 
enormous necessity I felt to make the suspender an outdoor 
and beautiful object. 

Before any money changed hands, I went to look over 
the Park "line." Previous to designing my men's clothes I 
did a great deal of research in the matter of suspenders. I be- 
came firmly convinced that wide suspenders were more com- 
fortable than narrow ones. The narrow suspender cuts the 
shoulder. 

None of the gentlemen to whom I talked had ever worn 
anything but wide, woven suspenders. They complained that 
it was very difficult to get nice ones. A number of them got 
their suspenders by the dozen at 20 cents a pair since these 

326 



were no more ugly than the $2.50 variety and $5 is a lot 
for a suspender. If you're particular, of course you have a 
pair of suspenders for every pair of trousers. 

The Park Suspender Co. said that almost all their 
"braces" sold for $1.50 but that, as times were getting bet- 
ter, I could make them for $2.50 if necessary. They could 
cheapen them later. I agreed to all this. I have no objection to 
anything being cheap if it's right. 

When I looked at the line, they kept showing me elastic 
suspenders about a half inch wide with clips on the bottom 
to clip onto the trousers. "What are these?" I asked. 

"These are $1.50," they said. 

"I mean, why are they so narrow?" 

"That is the width that all men now prefer," they assured 
me. 

"This is contrary to all my research," I answered. 

"You have been talking to the wrong people," they told 
me very firmly. 

"Don't these clips tear the trouser?" I asked. 

"Never," they answered. 

"Is it absolutely necessary to make them all in such ugly 
colors?" 

"Oh, no, we expect you to fix that." 

I picked up a pair of the elastic horrors and examined 
the clip. It was just wide enough to hold the half inch elastic. 
"Could you make these clips wider?" 

"But of course. Those are narrow because, naturally, it 
is cheaper to make narrow suspenders." 

"Oh, it's cheaper to make narrow suspenders?" 

"Naturally." 

"Then it isn't that all men want them?" 

"All men want narrow suspenders, Miss Hawes." 

I decided I'd better do a little more research. Maybe I 

327 



had been talking to the wrong men. I searched about until I 
found some men with narrow suspenders. 

"Why have you got on narrow suspenders?" I asked. 

"Because that's all we can buy for $1.50." They said. 
(They didn't know about the 5 & 10! ) 

"Do you like elastic suspenders?" I continued. 

"Certainly not," they answered. "They catch in our 
shirts and wrinkle them up. They are an invention of the 
devil. But if you have to wear narrow suspenders, elastic is 
the only kind that doesn't cut you to pieces." 

"How do you like clips on the ends of your braces?" 

"They tear our pants," they responded, "but an awful lot 
of suspenders are made that way now." 

"What kind of suspenders would you really like to 
wear?" I inquired. 

"Wide woven suspenders," came back the inevitable an- 
swer. 

Now, perhaps $2.50 is the least money for which a wide 
woven suspender can be made. I doubt it, because there is the 
5 & 10, but the Park Co. more or less assured me of it. I had 
visualized a promotion campaign of Hawes suspenders 
which would first give the world handsome designs, such 
that gentlemen would go about tearing off their coats to show 
off their suspenders. 

Next, if such suspenders really had to cost $2.50, I had 
an idea that a little straight talking would convince a good 
many men to spend that vast sum for an article of clothing 
which they wear every day of their lives, on which a great 
deal of their comfort is dependent, and which should be ex- 
tremely durable. 

Lovely as it may be to have a pair of suspenders for 
every suit, it is not a vital necessity. The enormous expendi- 
ture of $5 a year for comfort and beauty in two pairs of 
328 



braces ought not to be too much for the great middle class 
customer. 

But, before I ever began my job for Park, I saw that I 
was undoubtedly beaten, not by Fashion, as in the women's 
field, but by simple economics. The Park Co. would never let 
me, even in my best New Yorker style, tell the world that 
narrow suspenders were not what all men wanted and that I 
knew it and so here were some wide ones. 

The Park Co. would insist on quibbling because they 
wouldn't want to spoil the sale of their narrow elastic sus- 
penders with clips. And what made matters worse, the Park 
Suspender Co. also manufactured belts. Therefore, it could 
not be said aloud that suspenders were more comfortable 
and hygienic than belts, because it might make the belt sales 
go off. 

Therefore the Park Suspender Co., having hired me for 
however little, to make a big noise about beautiful com- 
fortable suspenders, would simply end by saying in a small 
voice, "Here are some wide and beautiful and comfortable 
suspenders which Elizabeth Hawes, that smart young girl, 
has gotten up to replace all belts. You can buy them if you 
like them. Of course, we highly recommend to you our nar- 
row elastic suspenders which are cheaper. We don't really 
believe suspenders have to be wide at all, and God knows, 
we don't care what they look like. What is more, we think 
belts are wonderful and here are some of the most wonderful 



ones we ever saw." 



I shut my eyes and visualized the Park Suspender Co. 
trying very hard to make the public swallow all my wide 
beautiful woven suspenders and all their narrow elastic 
ones, together with thousands of belts. I saw the Smith Co. 
gorging up cheap bags and French bags and American bags 
and expensive bags. There was Mr. Nibs, waving Notatal 

329 



silk in my face, and the knitter, hiding his eyes from Brooks 
sweaters. The Marshall Field Co. was making little piles of 
old samples to copy. Mr. Postman was trying to escape from 
an avalanche of back-buttoned gloves. 

They were all screaming something at me. Slowly words 
disentangled themselves: 

"WE ARE NOT IN BUSINESS FOR OUR HEALTH." 

Then Mary Lewis looked up at me from behind her desk, 
"Ford makes all his money on Fords, not Lincolns," said 
Mary Lewis, quietly. 

Ray Kraemer bounded up beside her, with a little 
printed placard which read, "I would not take Bergdorf 
Goodman for a gift. The way to make money in this town is 
to manufacture $3.75s." 



330 



Qst's Q)pinac& 




A LARGE part of the laughing one did at the old Charlie 
Chaplin with the funny shoes was to avoid crying over 
his too human predicaments. Perhaps it is the same instinct 
which makes me suggest that the easiest way to get out from 
under Fashion is to laugh him off. 

331 



He is only a little man with green gloves who does things 
up in cellophane wrappers. The mere idea that he had the 
nerve to suggest "all beautiful clothes change regularly 
every six months" is enough to put him in his place. He's had 
his day and practiced his little jokes long enough. 

I could cry over the plight of the American manufac- 
turer of women's clothes and accessories if there weren't 
something slightly funny in watching them chase their own 
tails, done up neatly and gasping for breath in Fashion's 
bright cellophane. 

Apparently they can't even see, through the wrapper, 
that economics today demands that all manufacturers es- 
tablish some sort of monopoly or continue to go 'round and 
'round on the competitive merry-go-round. Year after year 
they stretch up their hands to catch the gold ring, miss it, 
fail, start over again. 

There are too many taxis on the streets of New York, so 
none of the drivers make money. There are too many people 
making hats, so some of them make no money. There are, as 
you may know, too many people manufacturing bags, and 
gloves, and dresses, so most of them don't make any money 
except by cutting corners, covering bad quality with more of 
Fashion's cellophane. 

It is hard, very hard for the manufacturer in the women's 
field to establish a monopoly. A few of them may succeed by 
ignoring Fashion completely and steadfastly continuing to 
make certain classic things, like Brooks Brothers' sweaters. 

For the rest, we may hope that when the designers of a 
machine age grow up, they will help. It seems to me that one 
day the manufacturers will realize that their businesses 
would be on much more solid ground if, instead of going in 
for one big free-for-all competition on price year in and 
year out, they would get something of their very own to sell. 

332 



They would have, of course, to shed the French Legend 
which leads them up back alleys. They would have to realize 
that they are producing things in masses for the mass of the 
American people. They would be forced to find out not what 
their competitors were doing so much as what some portion 
of the public wants. 

The individual manufacturer would then be in a position 
to stand on his feet and say, "Here it is, in a good quality at 
a fair price. It's something you want and need. Buy it be- 
cause it's right . . . not because it's green or blue, not be- 
cause Patou showed it last month, not because everyone in 
New York is wearing it, not because Vogue tells you it's 
chic. Buy it because you'll wear it with pleasure for several 
years." 

That will take designers, well-trained designers who un- 
derstand about machines and who know what's going on in 
the lives of the people. Of course, there won't be enough 
good designers to go around for all the thousands of clothing 
and accessory manufacturers in the women's field. 

But I just toss the idea off the top of my head to some 
brain trust: Why not make all those manufacturers try to get 
real designers? Wouldn't that be a handy way of cutting out 
all those unprofitable marginal businesses? 

What if the brain trust continued its work and tore down 
all Fashion's slogans? "All beautiful clothes are designed in 
the houses of the French couturiers and all women want 
them" "Beautiful clothes change regularly every six 
months" "All American women can have beautiful 
clothes." 

What would become of all the fashion writers if things 
didn't change every few months? They could relax and write 
about what pleased their fancy, things the public might well 
be told, what kind of velvet really wears, how much the life 

333 



of a chic European has to do with the girls who push type- 
writers all day every day, how perfectly awful some of those 
girls look in their satin dresses at nine A.M. 

The department stores could institute want slips, even 
for the public to fill out! They could stock good stable mer- 
chandise and hold it until it was cleared out two years later. 
They wouldn't have to worry about changing fashion, be- 
cause there wouldn't be any fashion, just style. And style 
only changes every seven years or so. 

Each department store could concentrate on what por- 
tion of the public it was going to cater to and in how many 
fields. The stores which couldn't make up their minds would 
just go out of business and that would be a big relief. 

Mrs. Jones would soon learn that at a certain store she 
was going to find the type of very un-trimmed clothes she 
liked and at a price she could afford. Mrs. Smith would go 
to some other store for her ruffles. 

After all, the butt of Fashion's dirtiest jokes is the public. 
The present American boast, that all women can be beauti- 
fully dressed if they choose, has been so clearly stated in so 
many ways for so long a time, that a large number of Ameri- 
can women believe themselves to be beautifully dressed who 
are actually horrors to behold. 

Take those $10.75 copies of the dresses worn by the 
Duchess of Windsor in the summer of 1937. You could tell 
by the look on the faces of the American girls who wore them 
that they really felt beguiling enough to snatch off a Duke 
because they had a modified silhouette corresponding to that 
of a Duchess. The actual dress, stinted on material, cheaply 
imitated as to print design, bad in color and ill-fitting, was a 
horror to behold. 

You may say, if the girl feels like a Duchess, what more 
do you ask? I say, she looks to me like the worst mass-pro- 

334 



duced imitation of a Duchess I can imagine, and it just isn't 
pretty. 

In their franker moments, the fashion promoters are 
quite apt to candidly admit that many American clothes are 
not beautiful at all but really awful. Upon asking the manu- 
facturer, fashion writer, retail promoter or buyer, who is re- 
sponsible, the answer comes back fast enough. Either "The 
public is fickle. It doesn't know what it wants," or, "The 
public gets what it wants. The public has bad taste." 

Fashion has taught his promoters how to pass the buck. 
Quite a lot of the public has good taste and cannot get what 
it wants. If the rest of the American public continues to have 
bad taste, I can scarcely see that it is their fault. The public 
taste in clothes is formed by what it is exposed to. 

If it is candidly admitted by fashion experts that the 
American public is exposed to a great many perfectly horrid 
clothes, why does this happen? How does it happen? 

To my mind the responsibility lies not with the public, 
but with all the branches of the fashion world. And, after 
observing the whole works for nine years, I can't see that 
most people are having any fun in the present set-up. 

The general public is worried all the time because it 
either can't get what it wants or can't afford what it wants or 
doesn't know what it wants. And the fashion world is wor- 
ried all the time either because it doesn't know what the pub- 
lic wants or can't make the public buy what it should want 
or is having to go into bankruptcy and start all over. 

About the only women who are having any fun dressing 
themselves are those who can afford couturiere prices and 
so get just what they want. Even some of them are unhappy 
because they are obsessed with the idea that they should be 
fashionable instead of just going their own way and being as 
stylish as the Queen Mother. 

335 



In any event, we couturieres may do our best to save our 
customers from the wiles of Fashion, from the latest French 
model, the newest imitation silk, the dress that is here today 
and gone tomorrow. With prosperity, we may flourish. With 
the next depression, we may die. 

We have very little to do with life in America. We can 
only dress our few. We, at the moment, are in the same rela- 
tion to life as the French couture, which has proven to be a 
great American press stunt, in relation to mass production. 

But whatever relation I, Elizabeth Hawes the couturiere, 
bear to life in America, I am really quite a happy girl. I at- 
tribute it all to the fact that, although I am engaged in the 
clothing business in America, where legends still flourish, 
where the public worries over whether its skirt is the pre- 
scribed length, and the manufacturer worries about how full 
the skirt is to be, where Fashion is God, I have fun because 
I am in business for my health, and what is more, I say: 

FASHION IS SPINACH. 

I know that some members of my trade agree with me 
and perhaps ultimately a majority of them may arrive at 
some such conclusion. Fashion may perish one day at the 
hands of its creators and promoters. If it doesn't pass out of 
existence in that way, I have a very firm belief something else 
will transpire. 

The American woman has been laboring under an excess 
of fashion for only a few decades. By and large she has 
shown herself able to cope with the exigencies of life as the 
need has arisen. When she felt the time had come to vote, she 
saw to it that she was permitted. 

Eventually she will look inside Fashion's bright cello- 
phane wrapper before she buys the contents. She will seri- 

336 



ously consider the quality and the usefulness of the very 
newest thing, the epitome of all chic, the height of all 
glamor. She will settle comfortably back in an old sweater 
and skirt and idly remark to ninety percent of what she 
gees: 

I SAY TO HELL WITH IT. 





continued from front flap 

on dress markups, and Miss Hawes' colleagues in trade 
are reported to be running up a little gold lame rope 
suitable for lynching purposes." 

Lucius BEEBE, columnist 

"A book of real interest for every woman who buys 
clothes and every man who pays for them." 

THERESA HELBURN, director, Theatre Guild 

"Any artist will rouse to Hawes' battle cry. I hate pla- 
giarism no matter where it exists, pirating designs or 
anything else. Hawes has said something for all of us." 
MCCLELLAND BARCLAY, illustrator 





1903. 
1912. 
1915. 

1921. 



1924. 
1925. 

1926. 

1927. 
1927. 
1928. 

1928. 
1928. 

1930. 
1931. 

1933. 

1935. 
1936. 

1938. 



Elizabeth Hawes 

Born in Ridgewood, N. J. 

At the age of nine sewed her own clothes. 

At the age of twelve did her first professional 
dressmaking for a small shop. 

Entered Vassar. Liked economics. Outside of 
that, concentrated on clothes. At the end of the 
second year at Vassar went to Parsons School 
for Applied Arts. 

Summer as apprentice at Bergdorf Goodman. 

Graduated from Vassar and went to Paris to 
learn clothes designing. 

Became sketcher for prominent wholesaler and 
fashion reporter for the New Yorker. 

Became Paris stylist for R. H. Macy. 
Later Became stylist for Lord & Taylor. 

April Called at Paris Vogue office under 
Main Bocher. 

May Took job as designer for Madame Groult. 

October Opened shop in New York on 56th 
Street. 

First American designer to have an exhibition 
in Paris. 

Went into designing of accessories for whole- 
sale manufacturer, in addition to 56th Street 
Shop. 

Hawes, Inc., moved to present quarters at 21 
East 67th Street. 

Invited to Russia to exhibit her clothes! 

First showing of Hawes' new designs for men's 
clothing. 

Fashion Is Spinach published. 
Jacket design by Alexey Brodovitch